Four uninjured in crash landing at Lake Tahoe Airport |

Four uninjured in crash landing at Lake Tahoe Airport

Gregory Crofton

No one was injured Sunday after an engine failed during takeoff at South Lake Tahoe Airport, sending a small plane with four people on board into an emergency landing at 4:45 p.m.

The sudden return to earth caused the four-seat Beachcraft, which did not have its landing gear engaged, to slide to a stop near the end of airport’s asphalt runway.

The crash landing damaged the propeller, left wing tip and belly of the plane.

A South Lake Tahoe man constructing an airplane in a hangar next to the runway saw and then listened to the Beachcraft’s takeoff.

“I saw it about 100 feet in the air,” said Larry Lambert, 41, of South Lake Tahoe. “Then I heard it at half power. Then all of a sudden I didn’t hear the engine. I might have heard a little bang, but I didn’t think anything of it.”

The pilot, James Sowers Jr., a 45-year-old from Fresno, Calif., had been vacationing at Lake Tahoe. He wanted to land in San Jose, Calif. Also on board the plane was Louis Helmonds, 40, of San Jose, Jennifer Baley, 45, of Cupertino, Calif., and Julie Sowers, 40, of Fresno.

“He applied power and didn’t have enough,” said South Lake Tahoe Police Officer Shannon Laney. “He raised the landing gear after takeoff and didn’t have time to get the gear down.”

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