by Rob Malcolm

CALAVERAS COUNTY (CBS13) — Authorities are still searching for a small plane that plunged into Lake Tulloch Sunday afternoon. According to witnesses, it was flying dangerously low before hitting power lines and sinking nose-first around 11:45 a.m.

Susan Schall was on the boat dock of her summer home with her son and said she saw the bright-yellow single prop plane gliding low over the lake.

“We just heard this huge bang, we didn’t see it crash, we saw it go down,” Schall said.

Schall jumped into a boat with her husband and neighbor, a retired firefighter from Redwood City. They were at the crash site in minutes.

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“People were saying there’s no air bubbles because it didn’t spend any time on the surface,” Schall said. “It wasn’t sinking.
It went straight down and there was nothing. We ended up finding a little piece of possibly a headset and gave it to one of the searchers.”

The plane went in nose-first in the Poker Flats area on the Calaveras County side of the lake. The Cal Fire marine team and members from the Calaveras and Tuolumne County Sheriff’s departments deployed dive teams and sonar to locate the wreckage, which is estimated to be 150 feet down at the bottom of the lake.

A number of witnesses mentioned that the power lines stretching across the lake were not marked and the pilot likely didn’t see them.

“From where we’re standing they’re hard to see,” said Schall. “Those wires, they’re not marked, so there’s nothing to indicate that there are wires there.”

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Other residents at the far end of the lake were surprised to see the low flying plane. Danielle Ghiriinghelli watched the crash unfold from her kitchen window.

“It was going so slow and hit the wire, and the wing hit the cable and just – went down like that,” Ghiriinghelli said.

The crash knocked out power briefly for at least 1,700 customers. Crews from PG&E had it restored by late in the afternoon.

Residents said the pilot was putting on a show for friends and relatives who were filming him from below on a pontoon boat. Susan Schall talked to some of the heartbroken friends.

“They told us the plane was coming in, doing a fly by to say hello to their family, like it was pre-scheduled,” Schall said.

There was very little information about the type of plane or the pilot’s condition. Authorities are still investigating and say the recovery of the plane will require a crane and a barge.


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