Two die in plane crash |

Two die in plane crash

F.T. Norton and Kellie Du Fresne

MINDEN — Two men were found dead Wednesday in the wreckage of an experimental plane in a Douglas County field a day after the craft had been reported missing.

Pilot Charles Kenneth Collings, 36, of Carson City, and passenger Jonathan Lucas Wendling, 18, of Minden were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash about a mile northwest of Centerville in Douglas County.

Wendling is the son of Mike Wendling, owner of Chaparral Avionics in Minden.

The plane, a Glasair experimental aircraft, has a reinforced fiberglass cockpit in the event of a crash. It was owned by Mansberger Aircraft.

Wendling apparently worked part time for the company while attending his senior year at Douglas High School.

The victims were found in their seats. Authorities believe they died on impact.

Family members, concerned because the two hadn’t returned home from a sightseeing trip to Lake Tahoe, called the Minden Tahoe Airport, which in turn notified the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Early Wednesday morning, the Civil Air Patrol conducted eight flights over the area but failed to detect the downed plane.

A rancher who leases a Mottsville Lane field off Highway 88 near the Kingsbury Grade turnoff discovered the wreckage about 4 p.m.

Maj. John Martin of the Air Patrol said one of the five planes which made sorties on Wednesday saw something unusual. However, a return flight to verify a sighting was turned back due to weather coming off the Sierra Nevada.

“We had flown over the area, but we were mainly concentrating on the Sierra,” Martin said. “We were flying the ridgeline when one of the planes saw something unusual.”

Martin said about 30 minutes after the plane turned around, the Sheriff’s Office received a call of an aircraft found in the field.

The crash will be investigated by the National Transportation and Safety Board, and the Douglas County coroner will be conducting the autopsies.

In addition to the 35 Air Patrol personnel from the Carson-Douglas area, the group was assisted by a National Guard Helicopter equipped with an infrared heat-seeking device and a C-130 also able to seek heat sources on the ground.

The Washoe County Sheriff’s Squadron also searched the Washoe County area. Two Civil Air Patrol planes from California aided the search effort in the Truckee area. Law enforcement agencies throughout the surrounding area made calls and checked airport ramps when the plane failed to return Tuesday.

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