Pilot dies in crash at Sugar Bowl

TRUCKEE - A single-engine plane crashed into Mount Lincoln at Sugar Bowl Ski Resort late Sunday, killing the pilot and sending the broken plane over the back side of the mountain.

The pilot, who was flying alone from Reno to Oakland, Calif., ran into bad weather over Donner Summit. He told air traffic control at Oakland International Airport his plane was icing up and he was "going down" just after 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, according to Placer County Sheriff's Office reports.

The plane clipped the summit of Mount Lincoln, leaving debris within the ski area boundary, and continued down the back side of the mountain before coming to rest more than 1,000 vertical feet below the summit.

Rescuers, who were initially searching the area west of the crash site near Devil's Peak and Onion Valley, were redirected to Mount Lincoln just after 1 a.m. Monday. Officials at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia were able to pick up the downed plane's signals by satellite and notify searchers that the plane was near Sugar Bowl.

A Sugar Bowl snow groomer alerted searchers after finding a large parachute and pieces of the airplane on Mount Lincoln at 1:45 a.m. Monday.

The plane, a four-seat Cirrus SR224, is equipped with a fuselage parachute to soften emergency landings. The parachute was deployed, but the plane was going too fast for it to be effective, said Capt. Rick Armstrong of the Placer County Sheriff's Office.

Sugar Bowl delayed opening the ski resort as rescuers continued criss-crossing the area on skis in weather that only offered 20 to 25 feet of visibility.

Sugar Bowl ski patrol and search-and-rescue staff found the main portion of the plane resting at about 7,200 feet elevation at around noon. The fuselage was badly damaged, and the pilot appeared to have died on impact, Armstrong said.

The body of the victim will be recovered from the area today, if the weather holds, he said.

The scene of the crash is being blocked off until National Transportation Security Board and the Federal Aviation Administration officials can investigate the incident.


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