Cause of airplane tragedy under investigation

The musical director of the television game shows “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” was identified by his lawyer as the pilot killed in a weekend plane crash in Claremont.

The crash occurred as Steve Kaplan, 45, of Malibu was on his way to Etiwanda High School to rehearse and play piano in a winter jazz concert in which he was guest conductor.

His twin-engine Cessna left Cable Airport in Upland and crashed Sunday into a home in Claremont, about 30 miles east of Los Angeles. The family was inside but escaped injury.

“It’s just a great loss to anyone who knew him. He was just a really decent, kind man,” Kaplan’s attorney, David Fox, told the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in a story published Tuesday.

The Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office had not officially identified the pilot and was awaiting confirmation of dental records, spokesman David Campbell said.

Kaplan worked in Hollywood for 25 years, writing catchy game show themes and made-for-television movie tunes. For the past six years, he was composer and musical director for “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!”

He also worked with numerous singers, including Tracy Chapman and Michelle Branch.

The official cause of the crash was under investigation. However, officials with the National Transportation Safety Board said the plane’s right propeller blade showed evidence of “fatigue failure.”

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