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Reported plane crash called an ‘optical illusion’

Annie Flanzraich

Boaters on Lake Tahoe might have seen an “optical illusion” on Wednesday when they reported a plane missing in the hills near Rifle Peak, north of Sand Harbor, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office said.

After almost two hours of searching Rifle Peak and the surrounding area for a reported missing plane, the sheriff’s office called off the search, deeming it a false alarm.

“People are very conscious of aircraft right now,” said Washoe County Search and Rescue Deputy Mike Matthews, referring to the current Reno National Championship Air Races and missing record-breaking adventurer Steve Fossett.

Incline Village resident Mark Scully was boating on the East Shore when he saw black smoke overhead and “something airborne” about noon.

“It looked like a fragment broke off and crashed into the mountains north of Lake Tahoe,” Scully said.

But Washoe County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Steve Kelly said what Scully probably saw was two planes preforming acrobatic tricks before flying over Rifle Peak.

Teams from the U.S. Forest Service, Nevada Department of Forestry, North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office and Washoe County Search and Rescue responded to an area near Hidden Beach north of Sand Harbor State Park after Scully’s call. Helicopters and land crews scanned the steep slopes above the East Shore’s Hidden Beach for almost two hours.


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