Early last Saturday morning, February 28, I awoke to the sound of helicopter activity on the mountain directly across from my home. This continued for several hours. Usually, the only time we ever hear a helicopter up here is when the Med-evac ambulance comes in or when there is a forest fire - either way, it is usually not good news. Since it was still snowing and quite foggy, I knew that it was not likely to be a fire. At the same time, the helipad is to the left of my house down in the valley -- not across from my house where the sound was originating. I knew something serious was going on. The fog was so thick that the helicopter was barely visible as it ascended the mountain; yet I could hear it and I could occaisionally see the marker lights as it went up and down the hillside.
Apparently, the night before, during a snow storm, the pilot of a Cessna 172 single engine aircraft reported troubles with his aircraft to the control tower in Bakersfield. Shortly after, his plane crashed into the mountainside and exploded into flames. At the time, it was snowing, and the temperature was about 26 degrees. Due to the rugged terrain, the heavy snowfall, and the freezing weather, the search and rescue teams were unable to reach the crash site until 12 hours after the impact. They drove up the mountain on SnowCats and then had to descend on foot to the crash site. Unfortunately, the pilot died at the scene.
The snow on the mountainside melted this past week, and this morning while sitting on my back deck, I noticed something bright on the mountain. Using a pair of binoculars, I could tell that it was a small aircraft, or at least parts of the frame and wings -- the main fuselage was burned out. My sympathies go out to the family of the pilot. I doubt that there are any plans to remove the plane, so this will probably become a permanent marker to this tragic event.