Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of a plane crash last week that left four people dead.
The twin-engine Piper PA31 left Jack McNamara Field at the Crescent City Airport at 12:29 a.m. Friday, July 29 en route to Oakland International Airport. On board the Cal-Ore Life Flight, operated by REACH Air Medical Services, were pilot Larry Mills, 54, flight nurse Deborah Kroon, 49, paramedic Michelle Tarwater, 30, and patient April Rodriguez, 35. All four victims were residents of Crescent City.
Mills reportedly had 20 years of flying experience and had been with Cal-Ore Life Flight since April.
At about 1 a.m., the pilot radioed that there was an emergency due to smoke in the cockpit and said the plane would return to Crescent City.
Radar contact with the aircraft was lost about five miles northeast of the California Redwood Coast Humboldt County Airport in McKinleyville.
The following morning, the Sheriff’s Office searched Green Diamond Resource Co. property in the Crannell area and found a field of debris stretching about a quarter mile over an area with heavy timber.
By around noon Friday, the Sheriff’s Office was able to confirm that there were four fatalities.
The National Transportation Safety Board may have the results of a preliminary investigation sometime next week. The results of a full investigation, however, could take up to a year.
On Friday, REACH Air Medical Services and Cal-Ore Life Flight released the following statement: “This is one of the saddest moments in our history. We have been told there were no survivors. First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the patient and our crewmembers. ... We have critical incident stress management teams in the area and we are doing all we can to help those involved.”