Investigators from Lake Tahoe, FAA look into deadly airplane crash
August 8, 2008
Authorities at north shore Lake Tahoe and federal aviation officials continue to investigate an airplane crash that killed an unidentified male either late Thursday night or early Friday morning in the mountains about two miles northwest of Incline
While full details are unknown, Federal Aviation Administration and Washoe County Sheriff’s Office officials say the man, whose name will not be released until next-of-kin is notified, was flying a four-seat single engine Cessna airplane when he crashed near the Mt. Baldy peak.
It is unknown exactly when the airplane crashed, officials said, and an official cause of the accident has yet to be determined.
Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Brooke Keast said search and rescue teams found the plane Friday morning after it was spotted by helicopters shortly after dawn.
FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the man took off from an airport in Palo Alto, Calif. at about 8:10 p.m. Thursday night. He said the man did not file a flight plan with the Palo Alto Airport prior to taking off. Keast and Gregor said the man was the plane’s lone passenger.
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“From what search and rescue can tell there isn’t anything pointing toward other passengers,” Keast said. “There weren’t any other prints or luggage at the plane that would point to any other people besides the pilot.”
Keast said an emergency beacon, which is designed to activate when planes crash, began alerting authorities at about 3 a.m. Friday, although Keast noted that isn’t time certain to when the crash occurred.
“Nevada County actually received the transmissions first and alerted aircraft from the Nevada Civil Air Patrol,” Keast said.
Helicopters from the WCSO, civil air patrol and Nevada Division of Forestry couldn’t view the accident scene at Mt. Baldy until dawn, Keast said, because of visibility issues.
WCSO Search and Rescue was called in around 8 a.m., Keast said, and parked a number of sport utility vehicles at the Martis Peak Road turnoff from California State Highway 267.
From there deputies departed via all-terrain vehicles to access the very remote landscape and dirt roads leading to the summit of Mt. Baldy. A helicopter from both the NDF and WCSO also staged at the WCSO Incline Village Substation at the intersection of State Highways 431 and 28.
Keast said neither helicopter was able to land at the crash site because of heavy winds. An Air National Guard Blackhawk was called in from the Naval Air Base in Fallon, Nev. around 4 p.m. to extricate the body. Officials did not make immediately clear where the body was being flown.
Ric Bander, a Cal Fire spotter stationed at the Martis Peak lookout, said he first saw helicopters searching at about 6:30 a.m. Friday morning. The lookout is on the California side of Martis Peak, opposite the side of the mountain facing Mt. Baldy. Bander said heavy winds, normal for such a high altitude, woke him up at his lookout around 2 a.m. and kept him awake until 4 a.m.
“I recall getting up last night about 2 a.m. because the wind was shaking my
trailer,” Bander said.
Dave Parsons, an employee at the Truckee Tahoe Airport in Truckee, said no communication was received from the pilot before 11 p.m. Thursday, when airport personnel heads home for the night. He said weather readings for the airport showed no abnormally high winds over night.