Clovis News

2 dead in crash of plane registered to Clovis construction firm

A private plane bound for Fresno crashed into the Sierra Nevada foothills of Kern County, killing two men aboard, the Kern County Sheriff's Department said Monday.

The plane went down Sunday night en route from San Diego, and the bodies of the men were found in the wreckage Monday morning.

The plane is registered to a Clovis company, Floyd Johnston Construction, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

The company is owned by Floyd Johnston, 72.

An official at the company said he did not have permission to confirm that Johnston was in the plane. But the flag outside the company flew at half-staff on Monday.

Attempts to reach Johnston's wife, Evelyn, were unsuccessful. She is the company's vice president.

On Monday night, the Kern County Coroner's Office identified the men as James Johnston, of Sanger, and Jacob Curiel, of Imperial. Their ages were not released. Federal Aviation Administration records list a pilot's license for a James Floyd Johnston of Sanger. There was no license listed for the other occupant of the aircraft.

The crash site is 21/2 miles northwest of the Kern County town of Woody, southeast of Porterville in an area of foothills and low mountains.

The sheriff's department got a report about 7 p.m. of a downed airplane near Woody, said Kern County Sheriff's Department spokesman Ray Pruitt. A search and rescue team began a ground search, but called it off about midnight due to fog and poor visibility. The fog kept a helicopter from joining the search.

But the fog lifted Monday morning, allowing a helicopter to join the search. The downed plane, a single-engine Beechcraft, was discovered about 8:40 a.m. Monday. The helicopter landed and searchers found the two men dead, Pruitt said.

The cause of the crash is under investigation. FAA officials came from Fresno to take over the investigation, Pruitt said. The National Transportation Safety Board is also investigating.

Floyd Johnston Construction Co. was established by Floyd and Evelyn Johnston in 1969 and began as an underground pipeline contractor specializing in cast-in-place concrete pipe for storm drains and irrigation. In 2010, the company installed a $2.6 million sewer main in Fresno, according to information on the website of Integrated Designs, a Fresno architecture, engineering and project management company.