Plane Crashes in South Lake Tahoe - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Plane Crashes in South Lake Tahoe

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Courtesy of KTVN viewer: Michael Frates Courtesy of KTVN viewer: Michael Frates
Courtesy: South Lake Tahoe Mayor Claire Fortier Courtesy: South Lake Tahoe Mayor Claire Fortier

A plane crashed in South Lake Tahoe late Saturday night.

South Lake Tahoe Police tell Channel 2 News it happened just before 10 p.m. near Winnemucca and Jean Avenues. That's just north of the Lake Tahoe Airport.

The El Dorado County Sheriff's Office says witnesses heard the plane having engine problems and was seen to have dipped downward into the ground while attempting a turn.

"Some witnesses saw it attempt to turn and then dip and crashed and on impact, burst into flames," says Lt. Pete Van Arnum with El Dorado County Sheriff's Office.

The crash ignited a one acre fire, which South Lake Tahoe police say did not threaten any homes or buildings. It was put out in about an hour and a half.

"There's not a whole lot left from it," says Lt. Van Arnum. "The fire was very intense."

Sunday morning, we talked with South Lake Tahoe residents who witnessed the crash.

"Looked out the window, and there was immediately a huge fireball," says Tom Makris.

Several witnesses ran out of their homes, and by the time they arrived at the crash site, the plane was completely engulfed in flames.

"We then all watched as probably 25 or 30 emergency vehicles showed up over the next half hour," says Makris.

The Lake Tahoe Airport is not controlled by an air traffic control tower. That means, planes come and go whenever the pilots want.

Witnesses say planes fly over their homes at night, and sometimes in windy conditions. A scary thought if another one were to crash close to homes.

"The fire was well contained," says Makris. "But if it had been blowing, a fire like that could have easily wiped out the neighborhood."

El Dorado County Deputies say much of the identifying information from the plane was destroyed in the fire. The Federal Aviation Administration reports there were multiple victims and no survivors of the crash. The Associated Press reports that a dispatcher for the plane owner's company in Fresno, California, says five people were aboard.

However, the FAA says the Piper PA-32-301T is registered to Francisco De La Mora of Fresno. The National Transportation Safety Board says the same plane was involved in a 2005 non-injury crash in Destin, Florida.

According to the Associated Press, the dispatcher says De La Mora was flying to Lake Tahoe with his wife, Lorena, a 7-year-old daughter and two friends. However, authorities in the area have not confirmed the victims' identities.

"Our hearts go out to the families of those that perished in this tragic accident," said South Lake Tahoe Mayor Claire Fortier. "Thanks to the quick and cooperative efforts by multiple agencies; the fire caused by this crash was put out quickly."

Deputies say the plane did not file a flight plan with the South Lake Tahoe Airport.

Deputies tell us they don't believe the crash was connected to the Lake in the Sky Air Show. They say the show ended a few hours before the crash happened.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are working with the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office on the investigation.

"The NTSB has primary jurisdiction of the plane crash," says Lt. Van Arnum. "And the sheriff's department has a primary jurisdiction of the victims inside the plane."

Stay with Channel 2 News as that information becomes available.

Written by Adam Rasmussen

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