The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office has identified the victims of a deadly Saturday evening plane crash as members of a Sacramento-area family.
The four victims are 78-year-old David Chelini, his two daughters, 46-year-old Karen Baker and 48-year-old Donna Chelini, and his nephew, 58-year-old Steven Chelini, authorities announced Monday.
The single-engine Beech V35 is registered to David Chelini, according to FAA records. He received his pilot’s license in 2010, though the sheriff’s office did not say who was piloting the plane.
The small aircraft crashed minutes after taking off from the Visalia Municipal Airport around 6:35 p.m. First responders initially had trouble locating the plane due to the darkness and heavy fog, Sgt. Jesse Cox said.
Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board and FAA are collecting debris and sifting through the wreckage to understand what went wrong. The crash left an “extensive field of wreckage” spanning about 500 feet, NTSB spokesperson Peter Knudson said.
The plane crashed in front of an orchard near Road 68 and Avenue 288, just west of the Visalia airport.
The cause of the deadly crash is unknown. Investigators are collecting material from the crash site and moving it to a secure location. That process is expected to conclude Tuesday, Knudson said. An initial report outlining what led up to the crash will follow in the coming weeks, he said.
Visibility was less than a mile at the time of the crash and potentially much lower in isolated pockets across the South Valley, according to the National Weather Service Hanford office. Weather conditions will factor into the investigator’s report.