Two people died Monday in the crash of a single-engine airplane that had just taken off from Sierra Sky Park in northwest Fresno.
Wreckage from the plane was visible at the edge of a pond just north of Sierra Sky Park’s runway. Fire and law enforcement agencies had to navigate narrow roads and trails to get to the crash scene near the San Joaquin Country Club.
The Fresno Fire Department reported that two people were on board the plane. It confirmed Monday afternoon that both occupants had died. Their identities have not been released.
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Krystal Kerkezian said she was in her backyard and saw the plane take off. Then it made a hard right turn and plunged into the water.
Her husband, Mike, drove to the end of Milburn Avenue and ran about a mile to the crash site, where he joined three other men trying to rescue the occupants. They could see no one moving in the aircraft.
A chaplain was called to the crash scene. Later, a Fresno County coroner’s van was parked nearby as firefighters and rescue crews circled the aircraft, which was leaking fuel into the pond.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating. NTSB investigators were expected to arrive Tuesday morning.
The plane was an Express S-90 amateur-built experimental aircraft registered to William A. Huene, whose address is in Sierra Sky Park, according to FAA records. Authorities have not said who was piloting the aircraft when it went down.
Fresno fire Capt. Pete Martinez said his department has removed the two victims, both males, from the aircraft. The victims were removed around 5:12 p.m., Martinez said.
Identities of the victims or their ages have not been confirmed. The bodies have been turned over to the Fresno County Coroner’s Office.
The plane was submerged in about 6 inches of water. Martinez said divers were called out before his department knew exactly how much water was involved.
Martinez said the department is familiar with the terrain where the plane crashed, but took extra measures Monday to contain any leaking fluids from the downed aircraft. The department’s rescue team as well as the hazmat team responded.
The crash comes three years to the day after another fatal plane crash in Fresno. On Dec. 26, 2013, a 72-year-old Tehachapi man and his 8-year-old nephew from Fresno died when the plane they were in clipped a 62-foot tree near the runway at Chandler Downtown Airport and crashed. Killed were Timothy Lowell Farmer and his nephew Finn Thompson.
Sierra Sky Park has had its share of aircraft mishaps over the years.
In August 2014, a single-engine plane attempting to land at the park’s airstrip plowed through one fence bordering Herndon Avenue, then smashed into a fence on the other side of normally busy Herndon. Miraculously, no one was hurt.
In October 2008, a single-engine plane flew into the side of a furniture truck along Herndon Avenue as the plane was trying to land. The pilot was unscathed. A month and a half later, a pilot who had just taken off from the airstrip developed engine trouble and put the plane down safely on a nearby golf course. That pilot also was unhurt.
In 2002, Huene – the registered owner of the experimental plane that crashed Monday – was forced to land in a cornfield southwest of Fresno when his engine lost power. He and a friend were on their way back to Sierra Sky Park when the mishap occurred. On landing, the plane caught fire, but Huene and his passenger escaped unharmed, with the passenger, David Deel, praising Huene’s pilot skills.
Said Deel at the time: “He got us down, didn’t he?”