TRUCKEE, Calif. — One local woman is dead and her husband severely injured after a small plane crashed in the mountains Monday near Truckee Tahoe Airport.
A Piper PA-46 Malibu went down at about 11 a.m. roughly 6 miles southeast from the airport, in rugged and snow-covered terrain near Martis Peak at Juniper Creek, said Placer County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jeff Ausnow.
The plane’s passenger, Darla Sue Farnell, 55, of Tahoe City, was pronounced dead at the scene, Ausnow confirmed late Monday.
The pilot — her husband, 70-year-old Ray Richard Farnell — suffered severe head trauma and was hospitalized at Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno in critical condition.
According to a statement from Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson Allen Kenitzer, the plane took off from Santa Ana, Calif., and crashed due to unknown circumstances en route to the Truckee airport.
A California Highway Patrol helicopter spotted wreckage around 11:50 a.m., Ausnow said; search crews reached the scene at about 1 p.m. and began rendering aid to Ray Farnell, who was transported to Renown roughly an hour later.
More than two dozen personnel from Placer County and other agencies responded, Ausnow said, utilizing snowcats, snowmobiles and aircraft to locate the wreckage.
The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating. Typically, investigations take months before probable causes are determined.
The incident marks the sixth death related to a plane crash at or near Truckee Tahoe Airport in the past decade, according to previous reports.
On Aug. 2, 2012, James R. Ungar, 66, of Yreka, Calif. — who was preparing for a humanitarian trip to Mexico — died after his Piper Comanche 250 airplane crashed into a hangar at the airport shortly after takeoff.
On June 18, 2010, Raymond Rotge, 66, of Santa Rosa, Calif., and Mack Johnston, 71, of Chewelah, Wash., were killed after crashing a home-built, single-engine Vans RV8 aircraft on approach.
On Dec. 28, 2005, Jonathan Martin, 40, and Brett Karpy, 34, both pilots for a Pennsylvania company, died after the corporate Learjet 35A they were flying crashed and exploded while attempting to land.
Monday’s crash is also the 10th small-plane crash to occur at or near the airport since September 2008. Monday’s incident and the 2010 and 2012 wrecks were the only three to involve fatalities.