[UPDATE 11:17 p.m. Four Fatalities Confirmed] Humboldt CO. Sheriff Searching for Missing Plane; Three People Believed on Board

Fareskilt_41At approximately 1 a.m. today, the pilot of a twin-engine Piper PA31  radioed that he had smoke in the cockpit of his plane. The aircraft, tail number N661TC, which had been scheduled to fly from Crescent City to Oakland has not been heard of since. Three people are believed to have been on board.

Radar contact was lost with the plane about five miles northeast of the Arcata Airport, according to information from Wayne Hanson of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office. Hanson said, the pilot had said he was going to return to Crescent City. 

The Sheriff’s Office is searching for the plane, said Hanson. Because of the fog, aircraft has not been able to go up to search.

We’ll update you when we learn more.

UPDATE 9:50 a.m.: EMS1, an information service for emergency medical personnel, reports that this is a medical flight. Staff writes, ” A Cal‐Ore Life Flight fixed-wing aircraft, with three crew members and a patient on board, lost contact with its originating airport early Friday morning.” Read more here. 

UPDATE 10 a.m.: Scanner traffic indicates that a possible crash site has been found. We’ll update as soon as possible.

UPDATE 10:02 a.m.: Helicopter crews are setting down “near the old nursery” (We think near Fieldbrook) to search the crash site.

UPDATE 10:24 a.m.: According to the scanner, the FAA is requesting the crash site be secured.

UPDATE 10:39 a.m.: Debris is smoldering and fire crews are on the scene.

UPDATE 11:03 a.m.: Visibility was low this morning when the plane was in trouble. The Crescent City airport had 4 miles visibility at 1 a.m. http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo=eka&sid=Kcec&num=72&raw=0 TThe Arcata airport had three miles visibility at one a.m. http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo=eka&sid=Kacv&num=72&raw=0

UPDATE 11:12 a.m.: Vegetation fire from the crash is requiring more fire crews including a helicopter.

Press release from Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

This morning at about 10 a.m. Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office search and rescue teams located a crash site on private timber company in the Cranell area of Humboldt County which is located to the north of McKinleyville. At this time at least two fatalities have been confirmed. National Transportation Safety Board has been notified.

Continue to check this page and our Facebook page for updates.

Original news release at 8:15 a.m.:

This is all of the preliminary information we have on a missing plane in the Arcata area:

The pilot of a twin-engine Piper PA31 declared an emergency due to smoke in the cockpit around 1 a.m. Friday.

The plane was flying from Crescent City to Oakland.

The pilot indicated he was going to return to Crescent City.

Radar contact with the aircraft was lost about 5 miles northeast of Arcata Airport.

We believe there were three people on board.

The Humboldt County Sheriff is searching for the aircraft.

The tail number is N661TC.

UPDATE 11:17 p.m.: Press release from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office:

On 07/29/2016 at about 2030 hours, the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Coroner’s Division completed recovery of the victims from this accident. Tragically, four fatalities were confirmed. All four subjects, three females and one male, were recovered from inside the wreckage of the aircraft.

The ages and identities of the victims are being withheld at this time pending identification and notification of next of kin.



  • Hope the pilot was able to put it down softly somewhere. Keep your eyes open today peeps. It could be a friend!

  • Oh no.. Hoping the pilot was able to put it down somewhere safely and they are all found safe and sound!

  • Hope so, but then why no cell phone call, ELT signal, or radar signal?

  • Oh shit. Wishing them the best. I’m wondering why they didn’t just try for Arcata rather than going back to CC

    • Let’s just assumed the aircraft was exactly half way between Arcata and Crescent City. It’s 6 one way, half dozen the other. Both ILS approaches would have required the pilot to fly well past either field to intercept the localizer. And on top of that the weather was better at CEC with 4SM OVC007, instead of the ACV 2.5SM OVC002.

  • We have heard search choppers we are 4 miles east of Trinidad in westhaven.

    • Cymphanie Sherman

      Hey we have a reporter coming up there, do you mind if she talks to you? Her name is Taylor!

  • Horrible! Sending prayers!

  • Hope everyone is safe.these people do great work.had to take one to Oregon,nicest and keep me calm.thank you for what you do!I was so greatful for the skilled pilot’s smooth ride and putting up with me.i hope all these folks are ok.

  • Rosetta Bledsoe

    Kim, were is Old Nursery in Fieldbrook? I live in Fieldbrook. Heard the copters about 10am.

  • Why didn’t they go to Arcata?

    • Fog ? Where was the ceiling?

    • Let’s just assumed the aircraft was exactly half way between Arcata and Crescent City. It’s 6 one way, half dozen the other. Both ILS approaches would have required the pilot to fly well past either field to intercept the localizer. And on top of that the weather was better at CEC with 4SM OVC007, instead of the ACV 2.5SM OVC002.

  • Very heartbreaking.

  • Wow amazing to think a plane can go down that close to town and no one heard or saw it.
    The arcata airport was super fogged in last nite and this morning. Had to use windshield wipers driving thru.
    Those hot inland temperatures are making the immediate coastal areas in northern humboldt super foggy. (As it should here, that’s been a “normal” weather pattern for a long time)
    Sending prayers to all involved, how scary for everyone on board especially the patient.

  • anyone know....

    That’s a long time between crash and locating it, esp if fires that big.
    Can a drone be used at nite in the fog? I know nothing about them. This seems like a good use for one, going to last known radar coordinate and flying drone to look for a fire.

  • Sf news said 2 dead.so sad prayers to the family’s.

  • Your right kym,it’s crannell

  • It would be interesting to see a timeline of the events. When did the search for the missing plane begin? 8am?

  • The pilot required by FFA law has to file a flight plan from A to B

  • The Associated Press (if you believe anything they print) reports that the Humboldt County Coroners office states they received four deceased from the crash.

  • Such a terrible loss. These people are truly amazing, compassionate and professional, helping save lives everyday. I have personally been on two flights myself. One back in ’89 when I was 14 with a serious life threatning head injury being flown to Oakland on a fixed wing life flight and another three years ago from Briceland to Santa Rosa via Reach helicopter after a motorcycle accident. The flight medics were terrific. My heart goes out to the families, friends and colleagues of these heros.

    • Yes, every rural North coast volunteer fire department/company has worked with Reach and other air ambulance services because we’re all more than an hour away from hospitals. They (their helicopters) drop out of the sky trusting in our lat/longs and warnings about trees or power lines…and even touch down to wait until we get the patient to them…even after a few hours. (King Range is huge.)

      My late husband Dan was flown out from Ukiah when we had to make an emergency stop en route to Stanford Medical Center, due to terrific ER folks at that wonderful facility Howard Hospital, me driving down, arriving after Dan was already there. We were headed to a clinical trial. He flew out on a fixed wing, similar to the aircraft that crashed this morning.

      If I were you, I’d look into emergency insurance coverage from these air angels…even after this terrible accident…we live along the coast where the weather begins, where there’s no guarantee that they could always land in a storm, because Nature bats last. Am so sorry for all the families who lost someone in this terrible accident. I’m also thankful to that Cal Fire helicopter crew for taking charge of the accident scene, preventing any fires that might have taken off due to the crash. They all need to be commended, along with all the other personnel who had to witness the scene.

      • Unfortunately I lost my insurance 6 months before the accident three years ago. The helicopter ride alone from Briceland to Santa Rosa was billed to me by Reach at $69,979. Then there was the $313,000 Santa Rosa Memorial hospital charged me for six days in a normal room…all from a broken leg and wrist. Plus about another $20k for all the other Dr’s involved. Boy did I wish I had insurance after seeing those bills come in. I’m fully insured again at least.

  • Not to judge…. But if you smell smoke …..Land that plane…. Don’t try to return to another airport. We do have Great Medical services and could have landed and requested another plane, ambulance or Coast Guard. It’s all right there at a local airport. So sorry for all involved

    • That plane has to land at about 100mph and has a rollout in the 1500′ to 3000′ range. Hard to find a good spot to put it on the ground travelling that fast. Twin engines are a comfort over harsh terrain, but it doesn’t matter how many engines you have if you have a wiring fire. God bless.

    • I’m curious… by your comment Troy, are you a pilot?
      It seems not.
      Also… I realize people are going to speculate on what has been reported in the news BEFORE an investigation has even happened and the actual FACTS are revealed.
      I find that unfortunate… too much speculation by people who don’t know all the facts, attempts to write some sort of scenario equating to a ‘better choice’ based upon few actual details and possibly little technical knowledge or experience.

  • I don’t trust the automated weather reporting system at the McKinleyville airport. The ASOS system uses an atmospheric sampling roughly the size of a volleyball to record an observation for a radius of twenty miles. Until 2000, there were NWS/NOAA contract observers at the foggiest airport in the nation. Human eyes on the ground, and a radio so pilots had instant weather communication with those eyes.

    • Second that! It’s pretty ridiculous!! Perhaps one thing could come out of this tragedy and that’s to put live people back in that ACV tower, we pay so much to fly outta there, knowing an actual someone is there to communicate with the pilot would be nice.

  • Shawnee craddock

    Welcome to Fantasy Island! Rip….

  • “old nursery” probably refers to the old LP nursery at Camp 20 on Little River in S31, T8N R2E, about 5 miles ENE of Crannell, four miles north of Fieldbrook

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