Details emerge of small plane crash at Sonoma County airport


SONOMA COUNTY (BCN) — The National Transportation Safety Board expects to remove the wreckage on Saturday of a single-engine plane that crashed Thursday evening in a pasture south of the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport.

NTSB air safety investigator Stephen Stein said the wreckage of the 1969 Piper PA-24 260 Comanche will be transported to Sacramento for a preliminary report about the fatal crash that killed a male pilot and a woman. The report should take five to 10 days, Stein said.

The two people who died in the crash have been identified as 68-year-old Marsha Gail Gastwirth and 69-year-old Donald Gordon MacKenzie, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office. They are both from Santa Rosa.

The 4-seat, 6-cylinder plane went down around 7 p.m. near Wood Ranch Road at Wood Road a half-mile to a mile away from Runway 32. The plane left Palm Springs International Airport for a direct flight to Santa Rosa, Stein said.

Jonathan Stout, manager of the Sonoma County airport, said the plane was within the normal landing path and not off course. There were clouds at 900 feet above ground level and the pilot was using instrumentation, Stout said.

The tower at the airport is in operation 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Stout said.

Stein said the plane was registered to Tango Romeo Aviation in Sebastopol and was based at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport. The crash left a crater and small debris field, and the plane was substantially damaged, Stein said.

The left wing separated from the fuselage on impact, Stein said.

One of the deceased was found about 20 feet from the plane and the other was with the wreckage, Stein said.

The pilot communicated with the Oakland air traffic control center in Oakland and with the tower at the Sonoma County airport, Stein said. Stein said he did not know if the pilot gave a distress signal.

Stout said there are 82,000 take offs and landings a year at the airport and 385 commercial, private, corporate and charter aircraft are based there.

Alaska Airlines flies to Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland and San Diego out of the Sonoma County airport. Service to Orange County is scheduled to start in March.

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