Carson woman, Minden man, die in plane wreck
The wife of a prominent Carson City businessman and a Minden pilot returning from a Mother’s Day trip to Fullerton, Calif., are feared dead in a Monday afternoon plane crash outside of Yosemite National Park.
Tuolomne County Sheriff’s Department Forensic dentists must use dental records to identify two bodies, believed to belong to Irene Weddell, wife of businessman Rolland Weddell, and pilot, Larry Levi, found in the wreckage of Weddell’s Cessna 210 Turbo aircraft.
“The call was originally reported as a vegetation fire at around 3:30 p.m. Monday. Forest Service Fire District personnel arrived on scene to fight the fire and found the plane wreckage,” said Sgt. Bob Bogolea of the Tuolomne County Sheriff’s Department. Bogolea described the area as “remote and very near the west entrance to Yosemite National Park.
“The plane was completely engulfed in flames,” he said.
Rolland Weddell said Levi, 45, flew Irene, 58, to Fullerton to visit her 96-year-old mother for Mother’s Day on Friday night, then Levi and his 12-year-old daughter flew to the Bay Area to visit his parents. Monday at 11:11 a.m. Levi returned to Fullerton and picked Irene up for the return trip to Carson City.
The two were scheduled to be home by 2:30 p.m.
“I began to really worry about 3 o’clock. They should have been in here no later than 2:30 and I started calling the office about 2:30 because I wanted to take her to lunch,” Weddell said.
As Weddell was asking the Carson City Sheriff’s Department to call Verizon to have them triangulate the location of Irene’s cell phone, investigators were sorting through the wreckage and found enough information to conclude the plane belonged to Weddell.
He learned by 4 p.m. of the crash. By 5 p.m., Weddell was making the painful phone calls to each of his four children to tell them the horrific news.
“I tell you I loved her dearly,” he said his voice breaking. “I absolutely adored her. We’ve been married for 37 years. I’ve known her since I was 13 years old.”
Weddell described his wife as loved by everyone and a generous soul who loved children.
“I don’t know how many people ate at our table. You could always come to the Weddell house and always get a meal because of her. She is loved by her friends and family. She is the glue in our family,” he said.
Weddell said although the remains found in the wreckage haven’t been confirmed, he has little hope.
“Police there described a bracelet to me,” he said his voice choked with tears. “The bracelet is hers.”
Levi had been working for Weddell more than a year.
“Larry had become a very good friend we thought of him as if he were part of our family,” he said.
He described Levi, who would have turned 46 on Saturday, as a devoted father to his daughter Tori.
“He’d say to me, ‘Ron, I know you have to go, but I’m going to be a little late because I have to go to my daughter’s ballet, I gotta go,'” Weddell recalled.
Levi’s former employer and friend, Leonard Rocca, in South Lake Tahoe, where Levi once owned Emerald Bay Aviation, said his friend was a “seasoned pilot” with nearly 20 years of flying experience.
“No one can believe it,” Rocca said. “We didn’t expect this at all. People are saying, ‘It can’t be Larry.'”
Rocca said he was waiting for Levi to pick up one of the planes on Monday afternoon.
In a conversation earlier in the day, Rocca said Levi didn’t mention any concerns about the aircraft’s safety.
“If there was a problem Larry would refuse to fly and say, ‘Fix it.'”
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board were on scene Tuesday. It is unclear at this point what caused the crash.
Sgt. Bogolea said the identification should be confirmed by week’s end.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User