2 die when plane crashes into South Shore house

Firefighters work to contain a fire that was started Oct. 10 when a plane crashed in El Dorado County. Debris from the plane is in the foreground. Photos/Kathryn Reed

Firefighters work to contain a fire that was started Oct. 10 when a plane crashed in El Dorado County. Debris from the plane is in the foreground and to the right. Photos/Kathryn Reed

By Kathryn Reed

Two people died Saturday night when the plane they were in crashed just after takeoff from Lake Tahoe Airport.

The names of the people and their hometowns are unknown.

El Dorado County sheriff’s Sgt. Paul Hadjes told Lake Tahoe News the plane had landed at the South Lake Tahoe airport, waited a bit and then took off. The crash occurred about 5:40pm.

The single-engine plane was a Bonanza 35 with a V tail. The tail number was too charred to completely read.

Airport officials on Oct. 10 had yet to listen to recordings of the take off or any chatter after the plane was in the air to ascertain if the pilot radioed any trouble. The airport does not have a tower.

National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration officials will be on scene Sunday. People will be guarding the site all night.

Pieces of the plane are lodged in a tree.

Pieces of the plane are lodged in a tree.

Trees sheered off by the plane are visible behind the house that was hit on Tionontati Street on the outskirts of South Lake Tahoe. This is due east of the airport.

One woman said this is not the typical flight pattern planes use to take off from the South Lake Tahoe airport.

While it was windy for much of the day, by dusk it had calmed down. The sky was clear.

The bulk of the debris from the plane was to the right of the house. This is what caught fire. The cockpit was not recognizable.

Other pieces of the plane were in the backyard and some was still high in a tree well above the two-story house.

Roommates Bryce Tye and Matthew O’Hara were on top of Echo Summit when they saw the explosion that cast a large plume of white smoke that was followed by black smoke. They raced home thinking it was their house that was hit, but it wasn’t.

One neighbor said the lot is cursed because this is the second time in 10 years a house there has burned.

The two people in the vacation rental escaped with their dog unharmed.

“The guy was sitting in the living room having a glass of wine when they hear what they think is a tree falling. They see fire and thought it hit an electrical line. They look out and saw it was an airplane,” Ginger Nicolay-Davis told Lake Tahoe News. She manages the property for the owners who live in Hollister.

The renter was one of the playwrights who was to perform Oct. 10 at Valhalla as part of the WordWave literary festival. He left the house without shoes and didn’t make it to the performance.

The extent of damage to the house is unknown at this time.


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Comments (41)
  1. me says - Posted: October 10, 2015

    They call the v-tail the “doctor killer. This plane appears to have not filed a flight plan. Wouldn’t have happened if the tower is funded. Just saying

  2. me says - Posted: October 10, 2015

    Here’s the website to track flights. A bonanza is NOT on the departure list. If we had a functioning tower they would have to file and be advised of wind conditions when taking off in high winds that aren’t factually indicated by the ASOS:

    I could be wrong

    There will be lots of comments to close the airport now. But imagine how many people continue to drive cars that kill people daily but we continue to drive in areas we’re not familiar with.

  3. Bob Fleischer says - Posted: October 10, 2015

    me says:
    It is my belief that you haven’t the slightest basis for saying this accident would not have happened if the tower was funded.
    If you have such specific information, do tell us all. BTW…most light aircraft flying out of SLT do not file flight plans, unless planning on an IFR flight ‘in the system’. I very much doubt a flight plan would have prevented this accident. If you know different, do tell us.

    IMO….None of us, at this time, knows why this airplane crashed. Mechanical failure? Ran out of fuel? Physical incapacitated? Wind and density altitude problems? No end to possible reasons.
    The FAA & NTSB are very good at determining what happened in accidents. They may take a long time to produce the summary though.

  4. Kits Carson says - Posted: October 10, 2015

    I’m thinking…and always have…that as long as the airport is open to air traffic the tower should be manned.

  5. TahoeDave says - Posted: October 10, 2015

    This happened just down the street from my house. I spoke with someone at the scene that said he was playing golf and saw the plane take off from the airport. He said he could tell it didn’t have enough speed/power to climb out of the basin. Sad.

  6. Kits Carson says - Posted: October 10, 2015

    Nobody ‘takes off’ and runs out of fuel, unless a sudden leak I guess. It will be interesting to learn the cause.

  7. BitterClinger says - Posted: October 10, 2015

    There’s a multitude of safety factors the airport has let lapse over the years. A few people already noted the tower being closed. The tower being opened might have prevented this from occurring as the tower operators can give a pilot reports base on prior arrivals & departures in addition to directing the aircraft away from known downdraft areas southeast of the airport.

    Another problem previously mentioned is the automated weather system is old, unreliable, inaccurate, and needs to be replaced & relocated. The airport knows this, but refuses to address this malady.

    It’s more important to fund the city’s bloated & overpaid staff as opposed to funding known safety measures which could save lives in the air and on the ground.

    My condolences to the family of the deceased, may they rest in peace. How tragic & likely avoidable.

  8. me says - Posted: October 10, 2015

    Bob Fleisher: This tragedy for the family was unavoidable. Period. I know you have background, as do I. :0

  9. louis says - Posted: October 10, 2015

    ummmmm, isn’t this 2015? Is there any particular reason why can’t all planes file a flight path like on the internet? This isn’t exactly brain surgery, there are teenagers putting together complex apps and making millions in the bay area. We as a country can’t hire someone to put together a website and app to file a flight plan? Make pilots state where they are going, state who is with them, link in their maintenance information, plane model / id / serial number. We aren’t talking terabytes of data, we aren’t talking something complex just the most basic info, leave it secure accessible only after accidents.

  10. BitterClinger says - Posted: October 10, 2015

    Louis, do you file a driving plan every time you hop in the car? Didn’t think so.

    Flight plans are not mandatory except for IFR, the FAA couldn’t handle a flight plan for every flight, and you need to be talking to air traffic control (such as a control tower!) to activate the flight plan. So even if they filed a flight plan, without a tower, you can’t activate the flight plan on departure.

  11. Oswald says - Posted: October 10, 2015

    Flight plan will not decrease the chances of a mishap and a manned tower will not save the day, in this case. Statistically, emergency happens a lot on takeoff (or enroute climb) and landing, and pilots trained for it.

    None of the training involve the tower or flight plans to assist in the event that the pilot encounter emergency during these phase of flight, other than declaring an emergency. And the help from the tower is very limited. If there are controller in a functioning tower, the best they can do is clear the airwaves and maybe the runway (if the plane is able to return for an emergency landing), with radar, they may even vector the plane back or to the nearest airport which is Carson and Minden. Otherwise, the whole flying the plane thing is responsibility of the pilot in command.

    Let’s not blame the airport, cause of crash is unknown. Airport is a Class D uncontrolled, just like Carson and Minden, and there are specific rules when operating out of these class D’s, flight plan or not, it’s not a big deal. Filing a flight plan will only let the search and rescue knows When and Where to start searching, not going to prevent a plane from going down.

    My two cents.

  12. Hmmm... says - Posted: October 10, 2015

    BitterClinger is back??? I thought he’d been banned from the site.

  13. Atomic says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    Oswald is right on the money. Hysterical claims about flight plans and safety and misdirected budgets are simply armchair finger pointers from non pilots. Flight plans and manned towers don’t actually fly the planes, pilots do. In general aviation with private planes, things happen, sometimes in a hurry. Safety and proper judgement is in the pilots hands on any given flight. There will be answers coming so have patience and show respect for the situation. Godspeed to the pilot and passenger.

  14. Jimmy Swaggert says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    That airport costs the tax payers of SLT about 900,000$ in the red ANNUALLY!!! If you think you can afford to man the tower then you are wrong.

  15. Alan Smithee says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    2 things — Air density and PIC.


  16. dumbfounded says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    Density altitude + wind shear. My condolences to this pilot and passenger’s family.

  17. Stephtahoe says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    I am glad to see the more informed comments from Oswald, Atomic, and others. Towers provide traffic control. The airport is busiest around the celebrity golf tournament and the tower is manned during this period. From what little we know it sure doesn’t sound like other traffic was a factor in this incident.

  18. mountaindude says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    There was a similar crash at Elks Club and Crystal Air in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s.


  19. Bob Fleischer says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    There are some good comments. We don’t know what caused this crash. While I can think of some scenarios where a tower could have helped, so it is possible that a manned tower could have prevented the accident, I think this rather unlikely. Flight plans are not necessary most of the time, and would overload the system if flights were required to do so.

    The commentary is mostly correct.

    As for taking off without enough fuel, yes, has happened, and rather too many times in all the years I have been a pilot and a flight instructor. Everything from not finding fuel available for whatever reasons, to faulty fuel gauges (that is VERY rare, as aircraft fuel gauges are usually quite accurate when the tanks are getting very low), ETC.

    There have been instances of big aircraft….747 types for instance…not having enough fuel at its destination, perhaps kept circling by ATC, fuel getting low…….one instance in particular had its pilots failing to declare an emergency so they could get priority and land safely. Running out of fuel is a BIG no-no for aircraft, and particularly so for large aircraft. There is almost no good excuse.

    I don’t know the statistics for SLT, but I think I am relatively safe in saying that many of the ‘accidents’ we have had here are caused by failure to apply what the pilot certainly learned in basic training, about Density Altitude. The runway has a density altitude indicator, visible to all pilots. We just do not know why this crash happened….yet. It could have been mechanical failure. That the accident occurred is very unfortunate, people died, and a house was damaged, ETC ETC. Things happen in life. It is near impossible, no matter the effort, to eliminate all problems, eliminate all “accidents”. Probably will never be total agreement on a fix for anything one can imagine. We have very few accidents at our airport. One could dig into accident/incident rates here, if one was so inclined.
    As for closing the Airport, etc….this has been discussed endless times, and I’m not getting into it here and now.

  20. Cautious and Skeptical says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    Kae, thanks for the breaking news yesterday and always keeping us locals up to date !

  21. Jc says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    I saw a crash there years back whial working as ground.crew.
    I saw a plane crash, i was hounded by the ntsb and insurance companies for over a year .they kept asking me ,what did i see.i had to go relive it for a year over and over for them
    I will never again say i saw something.
    It was awful. Poor families.
    Wind sheer is very much a problem there.
    Just be aware

  22. by gosh says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    Too many blowhards who nothing about flying or Bonanzas
    running at the keyboard.
    Or winds or turbulence or anything else about airplanes and aeronautics but have grossly stupid opinions. Bonanza are not Dr. killers but Doctors are Doctor killers. It is a great airplane. I flew mine for over a 1000 hours in all kinds of weather VFR and IFR. Based in Tahoe for over 15 years. I am also a
    CFII with over 4000 hours.
    Let the FAA and the NTSB do its job and try to determine the cause of the crash.

  23. Bob Fleischer says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    I agree with by gosh ..
    for whatever that’s worth

  24. Louis says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    BitterClinger, do I file a plan every time I drive my car? That isn’t parity. Its flawed logic. I do however let my loved ones know more or less where I’m going. Just like any smart hiker does in case of a problem.

    Flying a plane isn’t like driving a car or going for a hike.

    My point still stands, kids are checking in online everywhere they go. There is no reason why there can’t be a simple check in system like that for small planes. Will it prevent an accident, I doubt it (unless perhaps, it would warn you of hazards at your destination). What it will do is help with identifying planes and people when an accident happens.

    You also seem to be hung up on the label of “flight plan” and legality. Fine, how does, “Private Registry Inter Check Kart” sound. We can call it PRICK for short.

  25. Cranky Gerald says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    All the towers and flight plans in the world will not, can not, prevent accidents like this one as is well discussed above. This discussion is wrong and fruitless.

    Bonanzas are capable,complex, upscale airplanes. With a light load,(2 people and fuel) and a fully operating engine they are powerful enough that density altitude was not likely the issue in this instance.

    A report that the plane landed and then took off again after a short while is interesting if true and could indicate that there was a reason for landing in Tahoe. Was there a mechanical problem, or a pilot problem? Both or either of which could have been the ultimate reason for the crash.

    If either of these possibilities happened, the judgement error to take off again after a successful landing, with a possibly unresolved problem was the real reason for the accident.

    Fuel was obviously on board in some quantity as witnessed by the intensity of the fire, but Bonanzas have more than one fuel tank, and require pumps to feed the engine from the tanks in the wings (as opposed to high wing aircraft which often have gravity feed from tank to engine). There is usually a manual switching valve with right tank/left tank/both tanks and off settings. Fuel system mismanagement by pilots is an extremely common reason for loss of power. The investigators will probably look at fuel selector setting first if there is enough of the plane intact to tell.

    The reason the plane went down may never be known for sure.

  26. BK says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    louis: first of all, there are multiple ways to file flight plans via various apps and internet sites. So there’s that…but I don’t think you understand what a flight plan actually is, because if you did then you would not see any way a flight plan would have prevented this accident.

    A tower would not have prevented it either. If there was a tower, all he would have done is tell the pilot he is cleared for take off. The pilot would have received wind/weather/density altitude info via ATIS/AWOS either way.

    My initial suspicions would focus on improper leaning for density altitude and/or why he landed a short time before and then decided to take off again. As others who actually know what they are talking about have said….the NTSB is very well-versed at these types of investigations and will most likely find the cause over the next few months.

    RIP to the pilot and passenger.

  27. Desert Nomad says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    Louis “Flying a plane isn’t like driving a car or going for a hike.”

    Why not? For most local flights, I do not file a flight plan, but I do however let my loved ones know more or less where I’m going.

    Are you a pilot?

  28. Clin10 says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    I love Tahoe more than any place I have been. I’m there at least once a year for a week. After reading many posts on this website, I can say that I’m happy that I don’t live there. Not all but many of the people that post here are extremely rude and come off holier than thou. I will return for the scenery but not the residents! Old Long Skiis, you seem to be a class act!

  29. Kits Carson says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    Clin: Once a year. Wow!

  30. skysos says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    Clin10 – don’t worry, people will say things on here they would never say to your face, and it does not represent what people are like in Tahoe at all. This forum is no different from any other on the internet. Check out Teton Gravity if you want a good laugh.

    I find it to be a bit more friendly than anywhere else I’ve lived actually. People say hello at the supermarket and chat me up frequently. Within 2 months I knew just about everyone on my street.

  31. Liberule says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    Clin: once a year!? You’re practically a local! What a kook.
    Ps. We’re glad you don’t live here also.

  32. rock4tahoe says - Posted: October 11, 2015

    Me. So you can go right ahead and air out your wallet to fund the Tower at the “airport.” And I would still be skeptical of your theory.

  33. nature bats last says - Posted: October 12, 2015

    Louis, I thought your little acrostic poem was well done. My son just did an acrostic poem in his science class based on the word purpose. Was yours a coincidence or did you start with the word and then come up with the poem part? Gave me a laugh…

  34. Buck says - Posted: October 12, 2015

    Me: why are all the new military aircraft V-tails?

  35. Clin10 says - Posted: October 14, 2015

    Liberule, you are a prime example! Yes, once a year. Not exactly sure why that’s so funny or unusual. I don’t live close by.

  36. My thoughts says - Posted: October 15, 2015

    Clin10 please don’t judge the residents of Tahoe by what is nothing more than a Internet Troll. The vast majority of the people that live here are decent caring people who appreciate all visitors to the beautiful place we call home. If it wasn’t for people like you we wouldn’t be able to live here and enjoy Tahoe all year long.Thank you for coming and come back soon.
    My Toughts

  37. Liberule says - Posted: October 15, 2015

    Clin: it’s funny that you think your opinion matters when you come here “once a year”. Do you comment on every paper in every town you visit? And you think the residents give a hoot about you or your opinion? They don’t. We don’t. So stay in the crap town you live in and keep your moronic opinions to yourself.

  38. Liberule says - Posted: October 15, 2015

    My thoughts: you are the second dumbest commenter on here. Go jump in a lake. If you’re wondering “Lisa” currently holds the dumb dumb crown. :)

  39. My Thoughts says - Posted: October 15, 2015

    Liberude the internet troll strikes again but he only makes himself look dumb.

  40. TahoeMom says - Posted: October 15, 2015

    Even if a flight plan was filed, the identities of the deceased would still not be released until confirmed (usually through dental records). Having a tower or flight plan wouldn’t change that! In all cases of fatalities (not just aviation), proper identification is required.

  41. Hmmm... says - Posted: October 15, 2015

    oh..Dribblerude…I thought it was me. once again, how many Dennis Rodman’s did you say you ‘owned’?