On April 3, 2002, about 2105 Pacific standard time, a Cessna 152, N69000, collided with terrain while in cruise flight near Lake Elsinore, California. The private pilot/owner was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The pilot and one pilot rated passenger sustained minor injuries; the airplane sustained substantial damage. The personal cross-country flight departed Long Beach, California, about 2000. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed.

The pilot stated that he stayed in the landing pattern at Long Beach, and completed three takeoff and landings. He departed for the French Valley Airport at Murrieta, California, and then he planned to return to Long Beach.

The pilot said he followed the 91 Freeway eastbound and turned southbound to follow Interstate 15. As he started to climb from 2,600 feet, he obtained the Automated Weather Observation System (AWOS) information for French Valley. He noticed that he was off course, but was unable to see any ground visual references.

The pilot turned on the landing and taxi lights and tuned in two VOR (very high frequency omni-directional radio range) stations to try and determine his position. He was scanning for ground references and suddenly noted trees in his flight path. He applied full forward throttle and started a climb; however, the airplane collided with trees on mountainous terrain. The occupants were rescued the following morning.

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