Plane crash victims’ families hold ceremony |

Plane crash victims’ families hold ceremony

Susan Wood, Tahoe Daily Tribune

Looking for closure to a horrible ordeal, relatives of the victims of a small plane crash that started a 294-acre wildfire nine miles west of the Lake Tahoe Airport held a private ceremony at the site Sunday to memorialize the two Lafayette residents.

The registered owner and pilot of the single-engine plane was Christopher “Chris” Henry Lombardo, a 52-year-old Bay Area businessman. His girlfriend, Judith “Judy” Ann Lohstroh, 59, was his sole passenger.

Escorted by the U.S. Forest Service, the family members erected crosses and said a few prayers in honor of Lombardo and Lohstroh.

The Washoe County Coroner’s Office had relied on dental records to identify the two bodies, which were burned beyond recognition after last week’s crash in the Meiss backcountry southwest of Luther Pass on Highway 89.

Lombardo was an excavation contractor, and Lohstroh taught third grade at Castro Elementary School in El Cerrito for the West Contra Costa Unified School District.

The couple was reported missing when their plane didn’t arrive at Buchanan Field in Concord from South Lake Tahoe as planned last Monday. They were going home after an annual vacation at Lake Tahoe.

The pilot’s brother, Marshall Lombardo, saw the plane take off from the airport and said he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary.

“It looked like a normal takeoff. I just don’t know what happened,” Lombardo said, adding his brother had made the trip several times as a veteran pilot of 20 years.

Lombardo said he had flown with his brother, a pilot who often took the recommended circle over the Lake Tahoe Golf Course before climbing west over Echo Summit.

However, Lombardo learned his brother may have been trying to return to the airport and clipped some trees.

The National Transportation Safety Board has not released its findings on the cause of the crash.

“When this happens, you’re just in shock,” Lombardo said Friday.

He was very close to his oldest brother, a man he described as one who loved life and relished the joys of a big Italian family.

“He did live life to the fullest. We did so many things together,” he said. “I don’t know how I’m going to continue on. Our mother is really shook up — the firstborn and all,” he said.

Beyond flying, the contractor enjoyed building motorcycles, rafting and sailing.

Lombardo said his brother loved Tahoe. He expects the family will continue to vacation here.

“He seemed to have everything going for him,” Lombardo said, adding this included the romance with Lohstroh. The two were planning to wed.

Lohstroh taught at the East Bay school district for 16 years. She was also an artist, with a passion for painting — especially trees, the Contra Costa Times reported.

The woman also had a deep appreciation for the outdoors, waking up early most days to run at the Lafayette Reservoir. She ate healthy foods, loved to travel, work in her garden and cook gourmet meals, the East Bay newspaper added.

Castro Principal Nicole Vedder said Lohstroh was a “teacher’s teacher,” a woman deeply dedicated to her students and profession.

“She was the kind of teacher that, despite the fact that she was very experienced, she was a learner,” Vedder told the paper.

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