Two people — including a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy — were found dead Sunday in the wreckage of a small plane that crashed Saturday in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Rebecca Joan Raymond, 28, had been with the Sheriff’s Department since September and was assigned to the Barstow station, officials said. The name of the other victim, an adult male, has not been released.
“Feels like yesterday that Sheriff John McMahon swore Rebecca in,” the Sheriff’s Department tweeted. “It’s a tragic and sad day for all of us. May God watch over her parents.”
The search began about 10:30 p.m. Saturday after the two didn’t show up to the Apple Valley Airport — their intended destination — when they were supposed to, sheriff’s officials said in a news release. “An aerial search began immediately,” the release said.
A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said the victims were in a Cessna 172, a four-seat, single-engine airplane. The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Big Bear City Airport General Manager Dustin Leno said no one saw the plane crash, but some people at the airport saw it flying low after it took off about 2:30 p.m. and became concerned. He said people were searching for any emergency signal, but those can only be picked up within line of sight of the transmitter.
About 9:30 a.m. Sunday, a San Bernardino County sheriff’s helicopter located the crashed plane. A flight crew member was lowered down and found the victims’ bodies.
Leno said the wreckage was off Saw Mill Road about a half-mile south of the airport, in an area not accessible by vehicle.
The FAA and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department were at the scene Sunday; the National Transporation Safety Board, which also will help investigate the crash, will send personnel soon.
Cessna describes the 172 Skyhawk as “the ultimate training aircraft and the most popular single-engine aircraft ever built.”
Bob Hartunian, 78, of Fawnskin is a pilot who has been using the Big Bear airport for 20 years. He said one witness who saw the plane take off reported that its nose appeared to be too high — something that can lead to a stall.
There are special conditions pilots need to account for when flying in and out of the high-elevation airport, Hartunian said. It’s at 6,752 feet above sea level.
“We’ve had a lot of people go in the lake” when they fail to account for those conditions, he said.
Because the air is less dense due to the higher altitude, Hartunian said, a plane doesn’t get as much lift as it does at sea level. Pilots, he said, also have to make the plane’s fuel mix leaner. Sea-level fuel mixtures can diminish engine performance.
“You flood the engine,” Hartunian said.
Overloading the plane with too many people or too much cargo can make both situations worse, he added.
“It’s really important for people to be aware of air density, to lean your engine and not overload your plane.”
This story is developing. Check back for updates.