The pilot and sole occupant of a twin-engine airplane died Saturday, March 16, when the Beechcraft BE50 crashed in a residential backyard in Riverside just before noon, shortly after the pilot reported engine trouble, authorities said.

The preliminary investigation determined that the plane was flying from Chino to Apple Valley, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.

FAA records show that the plane was manufactured in 1956 and is registered to Caffey Aviation in Costa Mesa.

The pilot’s name had not been publicly announced Saturday afternoon. Riverside Fire Capt. Brian Guzzetta said the pilot was an “older man.”

The crash occurred in the 10500 block of Robinson Avenue near Norwood Avenue in the La Sierra Acres area.

Four people were in the house where the plane went down, Riverside police spokesman Ryan Railsback said. The plane, which crashed almost immediately after the pilot’s 11:50 a.m. distress call to the tower at Riverside Municipal Airport, struck a tree before landing in the yard, he said. The neighborhood in the La Sierra area is slightly rural, with mostly one-story homes on large lots, some with horses and other farm animals.

No one on the ground was injured, Guzzetta said.

The two adults and two children at the Robinson Avenue home where the plane nosedived into the backyard had been working in that yard earlier on what was a rare sunny and warm Saturday morning this winter before going inside for lunch, he said.

“It was fortunate for the homeowners in the area. When you think of an aircraft going down, you think of it maybe taking out several homes,” he said.

Norwood Avenue resident Josh Nunnally said he saw the plane flying unusually low for the neighborhood, and it pitched up before it crashed.

“He came around the back side of this property,” Nunnally said, pointing east. “He was fighting the wind, and right when he got around this oak tree right here, it looked like he pulled straight up on the stick to gain altitude and it just dropped immediately. It straight nose-dived and it went straight into the ground real quick. It was a loud crash.”

He said an engine was “sputtering.”

Nunnally said he called 911. Then he and friend Albert Ortega rushed to the backyard of a home on Robinson and found a crumpled blue and white plane with the pilot dead.

“There was nothing we could do about it,” Nunnally said.

There was no fire or smoke, only the smell of engine fuel, according to Guzzetta.

Debris from the plane caused minor damage to nearby homes — a tree, a patio, a fence, Guzzetta said — and no debris field.

The plane went down about 2.5 miles west of the Riverside airport. About the same distance to the east of the airport a little more than two years ago, on Feb. 27, 2017, four people died when a small plane crashed, setting several homes ablaze.

That tragedy was fresh in the minds of Riverside firefighters when the standard plane crash response of two engines, a truck, a battalion chief and an ambulance were dispatched after multiple 911 callers reported an aircraft down.

“We always think worst-case scenario,” Guzzetta said. “When you think of an aircraft that comes down we’re thinking potential homeowners that are home, it’s a Saturday afternoon, people are out in the yards.

“I think we were all surprised when we came around the corner that we didn’t see a fire.”

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash. An FAA employee at the crash site declined to comment. Robinson remained closed and the plane was still in the yard late Saturday afternoon. No additional details were immediately available.