Local News

Friday, Nov 08 2013 01:15 PM

'Downed plane' report deemed likely unfounded

Related Photos

Kern County Fire Department helicopter 408 lands for refueling at a staging area at Curry Street and Highline Road before resuming its search for a possible downed aircraft in the mountains south of Tehachapi Friday, Nov. 8. After an extensive search and further witness reports, it is now believed that the aircraft in question was a sport plane practicing aerobatics. Gregory D. Cook / Tehachapi News

A trail of smoke in the sky above the mountains south of the City of Tehachapi was seen by several people Friday morning, Nov. 8. Officials are searching the area for an aircraft. Photo by Tina Larson

Witness Tina Larson describes to Kern County Sheriff and Fire Department personnel what she saw earlier Friday Nov. 8, when multiple people believed a small aircraft had gone down in the mountains south of Tehachapi. Gregory D. Cook / Tehachapi News

After searching for more than two hours through the mountains to the south of the City of Tehachapi, emergency crews determined based on a witness account that the previous report of a possible downed plane was likely a misconception.

Multiple witnesses reported to officials that they had seen a plane spewing smoke as it headed down behind the ridge line, then never saw the plane re-appear.

"We saw the smoke and it just spiraled straight down," said Tehachapi resident Tina Larson. She spotted the plane and snapped a photo while walking with her daughter near the end of Tucker Road just before 10 a.m. Friday.

Around noon, local resident Tom Lynch arrived at the command post at the corner of Highline Road and Curry Street and reported what he saw to authorities.

"He was having a...good time," Lynch said.

While headed to Stallion Springs, Lynch said he spotted what appeared to be a stunt plane. He has worked with aircraft for 37 years, he said. Lynch said he saw the plane continue along the ridge line, still purposely spewing smoke, do one more loop, turn off the smoke, and head southwest.

"I was wishing I could have been up there with him," he said.

Authorities on scene included Kern County Fire Department, Kern County Sheriff's Department, Tehachapi Police Department, and Hall Ambulance. Rescuers were searching by air using a helicopter based out of Keene. Heidi Dinkler lead the chopper team.

The area being searched was roughly west of the Tehachapi Mountain Valley Airport and east of Tehachapi Mountain Park.

Kern County Fire Capt. Wayne Griffith reported that the 911 call came in about 9:45 a.m. and crews responded immediately with ground and air crews. While the helicopter searched the ridge line, two TPD four-by-four vehicles combed the rough fire roads in the same mountainous area, according to TPD Officer Scott Ketcham.

David Goodell, incident commander for Kern Fire at the site, said he was "92 percent" certain there was no crash, but in the interest of "due diligence," he and other officials were remaining on scene, as of noon.

Authorities were also contacting area airports, trying to confirm whether any aircraft were missing or if a pilot was out conducting stunts. They received no reports of missing planes from any area airports, including Tehachapi Municipal Airport.

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