April 23, 2014
The victims of Monday's plane crash in California's Mother Lode country have been identified as a Stateline woman who wanted to become a commercial airline pilot and a Gardnerville man who owned the plane.
Officials said Melani Toombes, 36, was piloting a Piper Cherokee that crashed Monday morning about 200 yards south of the edge of the airport near Columbia, Calif. It apparently had just taken off.
The plane was registered to Vernon Tucker, 85, of Gardnerville, who was a passenger.
A Tuolumne County deputy responding to the accident, David Paul Grant, 46, died when he swerved to miss two vehicles and the cruiser he was driving crashed into a tree.
Witnesses said the plane was on fire when it hit, and it was fully involved in flames. Investigators said the bodies were burned beyond recognition.
Toombes was a cook at Harrah's Tahoe Gourmet Room and specialized in pastries and souffles.
Executive chef Joe Wells said she had told him that her goal was to become a commercial airline pilot.