A private business jet heading from Idaho to California crashed and burst into flames Wednesday as it tried to land at an airport north of Lake Tahoe, killing both occupants.
The twin-engine Learjet had taken off from Twin Falls, Idaho,
and was scheduled to pick up two passengers at Truckee Tahoe
Airport, said Bruce Nelson, a Federal Aviation Administration
operations officer in Los Angeles.
He said officials had yet to identify a potential cause of the 2
p.m. crash, but a storm had brought rain, snow and high winds to
the Sierra Nevada.
Neither the occupants nor the passengers they were coming to
collect were immediately identified.
The flight left Twin Falls sometime between noon and 1 p.m. PST,
Twin Falls Airport Manager Bill Carberry said. In recent days,
planes have been diverted to Twin Falls from the Sun Valley Airport
in Hailey, Idaho, 70 miles to the north.
"This is a holiday weekend and Sun Valley is usually filled to
the gills, but they've had marginal weather the last few days so
we've had dozens and dozens of business jets coming in here,"
He said had no information on the plane's owner or its
The plane crashed in a field near a recreation area short of the
Truckee runway, Placer County Sheriff's Sgt. John Giovannini said.
Weather was poor, with rain and winds of 23 mph and gusts
hitting more than 40 mph at the time of the crash, he said. The
airport had issued a warning on its Web page saying pilots might
encounter "turbulence, downdrafts and wind shear."
Truckee resident Mark Maisel told the Sierra Sun newspaper that
he was saw the crash from his car.
"The right wing went straight up with the left wing straight
down, then the left wing went straight up," he told the paper.
"Then it hit the ground with the biggest ball of flame you've ever
seen. The ball of flame was bigger than any tree around here."
Brad Rabensteine of Truckee said he was one of the first to
reach the crash.
"It made a hard left bank turn. I don't know if the wind took
it or what, but it went straight into the ground," Rabensteine
told the Sierra Sun. "The ball of flame that went up was just
unbelievable. We ran out there, and there was nothing left."
The FAA, National Transportation Safety Board and Placer County
sheriff's deputies were investigating.