SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Authorities have identified one of the two people killed in an early morning plane crash in Truckee.
The pilot, Ken Whittall-Scherfee, was an attorney from Carmichael.
“I think that was his greatest passion—besides his family—was flying,” said Wendy Phoenix, a longtime friend.
At 7:33 a.m. on Tuesday, the 60-year-old pilot took off in his single-engine plane. It was a scenic trip through Tahoe that Phoenix said he’d taken before.
“It was their retreat,” she said, referring to Ken and his wife. “It’s where they would go for skiing. They were big skiers. They would take their dog and go up and spend the long weekends there!”
Shortly after takeoff, Whittall-Scherfee issued a ‘mayday’ call. According to radio transcripts, the traffic control tower tried to make contact with the pilot but heard no response. Then, the tower asked another aircraft nearby to check the area for the Navion-B plane. A nearby hiker was able to give law enforcement the wrecked plane’s exact coordinates.
“Well, it’s devastating,” Phoenix said.
She told CBS13 Whittall-Scherfee supported local nonprofits and would often auction off or donate rides in his plane.
“He was very generous!” Phoenix said. “He took people out on his plane all the time!”
According to the California State Bar, Whittall-Scherfee was a bankruptcy lawyer with an office in Truckee and a graduate of the McGeorge School of Law.
“Ken was very, very caring, he loved his family,” Phoenix said. “He cared very much about his clients.”
Her daughter went to school with Ken’s son and she said the parents bonded over their children’s connections to the El Camino High School band.
“They were often doing events together and we became very good friends!” she told CBS13.
Neighbors say Whittall-Scherfee and his wife lived in Carmichael for years and described the couple as pleasant and neighborly.
And after 12 years of friendship, Phoenix said she’ll remember him most as the guy who liked good wine, unique cars and of course, a trip through the skies.
“I talked to my family, and we’re all there for them if they need us,” she said.
The plane went down in the Martis Creek Lake Wildlife Area near Mercer Flats between the mountain of Northstar and Highway 267. Investigators including the Placer County Sheriff’s office and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are still trying to figure out what may have gone wrong.
The two passengers were initially transported to a Reno hospital. One died from their injuries and has not yet been identified. The other is in the hospital recovering.