Two dead in air crash
A man and a woman were killed after the single-engine airplane they were flying crashed near the Nevada County Airport Monday evening.
The two were from the Bay Area but had a vacation home in Grass Valley, according to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office. However, the names of the dead had not been released late Monday.
The Cessna 172K crashed almost one mile southeast of the airport around 6:30 p.m., on private property off of Greenhorn Road. No one at that residence was hurt, sheriff’s deputies said.
“At this point in time, it appears (the plane crashed) because of disorientation because of the fog,” Sheriff’s Sgt. Frank Koehler said.
There was no radio contact from those on board before the crash, he said. The bodies of the man and the woman were found thrown from the plane.
“Both bodies were within 10 to 15 feet from the fuselage,” he said.
According to Nevada County Airport caretaker Robert Steuber, the plane originally flew into the airport Friday from Palo Alto.
The plane belonged to San Mateo resident Leonard Robinson, according to a Federal Aviation Administration report. However, he was not one of the ones on board at the time of the crash. Robinson often leased the plane to others, according to one of his co-workers.
Steuber said the man and woman in the crash were heading back to the Bay Area around 4 p.m. in clear visibility.
But the airplane returned around 6:30 p.m.
Steuber said the pilot made one “instrument approach,” meaning he was not able to see the runway, but tried to land with the aid of gauges. After the pilot missed that approach, he began a second attempt at a landing.
“He could not see the ground, so he went around, establishing a second approach,” Steuber said. “He came in low and broke off the second approach – he turned to the right – that’s when he crashed.”
Steuber said fog may have been a factor, but a lack of fuel might also have been the cause of the crash.
A Cessna can only carry about four and a half hours of fuel, Steuber said. The Friday flight from Palo Alto took one and a half hours. After the pilot arrived, he did not refuel, Steuber said. After taking off around 4 p.m. Monday, the plane was gone for almost two and a half hours. The plane returned, possibly because of fog in the Bay Area, he said. That would put the total flight time over the two days at about four and a half hours.
“By this time, he could have been out of fuel,” Steuber said. “That’s an educated guess.”
There was no strong smell of fuel at the crash site, and the wreckage did not catch fire.
“I’ve seen the man fly in bad weather,” Steuber said. “He was an instrument-rated pilot.”
Rated pilots are allowed to operate an airplane by reading gauges if a view is not available.
Nevada County Consolidated Fire and a Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital ambulance also responded.
This was the first airplane fatality in Nevada County since July 4, 2003, when a small plane crashed shortly after taking off from Truckee-Tahoe Airport, killing one of the two passengers.
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