by Rob Malcolm


OROVILLE (CBS13) — Mat Lakota has lived in Oroville for years. As a part-time pilot, he rarely sees jets at the local airport, let alone one burned to its shell.

“To look at this thing and see an airplane crashed at the runway in a small town like this was amazing,“ said Lakota.

On Wednesday around noon, the twin-engine private jet skidded and burst into flames at the northern end of the runway after the pilot aborted the take-off for unknown reasons.

Fire and rescue converged on the wreckage, which sparked a grass fire and threatened the vegetation surrounding Oroville Municipal Airport.

Highway 165 was also closed for a short time, golfers next door at Table Mountain Golf Club rushed to see what happened after hearing a noise then seeing the large plume of smoke and flames.

Zeke Higgins was just starting his day.

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“I ended up going into the pro shop telling the guys about it,” Higgins said. “I walk back out and all of a sudden I see an explosion over there and the plane’s gone.”

The private jet was headed to Portland and operated by Delta Private Jets. In a statement, the company said in part

“We are in close contact with the customers on board an aircraft operated by Delta Private Jets that left the runway in Oroville, Calif., on Wednesday after the crew elected to reject takeoff before leaving the ground. All eight customers and two crew safely exited the aircraft and were escorted to the terminal. While the cause of the incident is currently under investigation, we are providing support to customers involved through re-accommodation and other resources.”

Bystanders who followed the smoke and flames were shocked to learn everyone was accounted for.

“If you had seen the enormous ball of fire and smoke, they’re very very lucky people,” Lakota said.

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Larry Castner from nearby Hallwood nervously joked as he looked at the charred shell of the jet on the runway.

“I hope they’re having a cocktail right now. That’s what they need to have something like that maybe, maybe hold on to a bible,” Castner said.

The passengers had been staying in Oroville overnight and were quickly moved onto other flights. The FAA and the NTSB are helping with the investigation to determine what went wrong.

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