Runway lights worked properly night of southwest Fresno fatal plane crash

The Fresno BeeDecember 28, 2013 

The lights on the runway at Chandler Downtown Airport were working properly Thursday night when a Cessna airplane crashed, killing a 72-year-old pilot and an 8-year-old Fresno boy, said an airport official.

The official did not want to be identified because federal investigators are leading the effort to determine what caused the crash. But the airport official said the runway lights were checked to make sure they would have been operating when the pilot, Timothy Lowell Farmer, 72, of Tehachapi, approached the airport in southwest Fresno in a single-engine Cessna.

The trees near the airport that are the staff's responsibility to keep trimmed were also examined, and the official said they should not have blocked the pilot's view.

Farmer made looping, 180-degree turns over the airport before the plane clipped a tree and crashed about 6:30 p.m. outside a southwest Fresno home, causing the Cessna to burst into flames, a federal investigator said Friday. Farmer and the boy, who the Fresno County Coroner's Office confirmed Saturday was Finn Thompson, died on impact.

Fresno Unified School District spokeswoman Susan Bedi said in a statement that Thompson was a third-grade student at Bullard Talent Elementary School. (Fresno County coroner officials initially said he was 9 years old, but revised the age Saturday after reviewing records.)

"He was well liked by his classmates and teachers," Bedi said. "Psychologists will be on campus to support students and staff when they return from winter break. Please keep his family in your thoughts during this very difficult time."

By Saturday the wreckage had been removed from the airport to a separate location, the airport official said, for investigators to work on finding the cause of the crash.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6279 or jrayburn@fresnobee.com.

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