Pilot dies in crash – Plane goes down near Sugar Bowl ski resort
TRUCKEE – A single-engine plane crashed into Mount Lincoln at Sugar Bowl ski resort late Sunday, killing the pilot and sending the broken plane over the back side of the mountain.
The pilot, who was flying alone from Reno to Oakland, ran into bad weather over Donner Summit and told air traffic control at Oakland International Airport that his plane was icing up and he was “going down” just after 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, according to Placer County Sheriff’s Office reports.
The plane clipped the summit of Mount Lincoln, leaving debris within the ski area boundary, and continued down the back side of the mountain before coming to rest more than 1,000 vertical feet below the summit.
Rescuers, who were initially searching the area west of the crash site near Devil’s Peak and Onion Valley, were redirected to Mount Lincoln just after 1 a.m. Monday. Officials at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia were able to pick up the downed plane’s signals by satellite and notify searchers that the downed plane was near Sugar Bowl.
A Sugar Bowl groomer found a large parachute and pieces of the airplane on Mount Lincoln at 1:45 a.m. Monday and alerted searchers.
The plane, a four-seat Cirrus SR224, is equipped with a fuselage parachute to soften emergency landings. The parachute was deployed, but the plane was traveling at too high of a speed for it to be effective, said Capt. Rick Armstrong of the Placer County Sheriff’s Office.
Sugar Bowl ski patrol and Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue began combing the steep terrain around where the parachute was found, but poor visibility and the ruggedness of the terrain hampered their efforts.
“Airplanes don’t leave any tracks, so you just have to scour until you find it,” said Steve Twomey, a Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue member who arrived at the main fuselage of the plane with Sugar Bowl ski patrollers.
Sugar Bowl delayed opening the ski resort as rescuers continued criss-crossing the area on skis in weather that only offered 20 to 25 feet of visibility.
Sugar Bowl ski patrol and Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue found the main portion of the plane resting at about 7,200 feet elevation at around noon. The fuselage was badly damaged and the pilot appeared to have died on impact, Armstrong said.
The scene of the crash was being blocked off until National Transportation Security Board and the Federal Aviation Administration officials can investigate the crash.
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