The pilot, 66 year-old Steven Lefton of Palo Alto, died on impact and his wife is in stable condition at a Reno hospital. Lt. Pete Van Arnum with El Dorado Sheriffs Department says witnesses reported the plane had trouble right after take-off.
“Several witnesses said that the aircraft was having difficulty getting lift as it was taking off from the airport and then it veered to the east and started loosing altitude and went down in forested area near a meadow area, crashed and flipped over,” Van Arnum says.
Lafton's wife was pinned in the wreckage that was leaking fuel. An off-duty nurse that was in the area helped console her until emergency crews arrived and freed her.
High temperatures and high altitude are common problems for pilots in the Sierra. Van Arnum recommends pilots make sure their planes are not overloaded and check that they have sufficient power before take off.
“With the high altitude and the warm weather the planes don’t get the kind of lift they need to clear take off,” he says.