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Four dead in plane crash and fire at Columbia Airport

Four killed in plane crash at Columbia airport.

Four people died when their plane crashed at an airport in Columbia on Wednesday, July 27.
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Four people died when their plane crashed at an airport in Columbia on Wednesday, July 27.

A twin-engine, four-seat airplane crashed at Columbia Airport on Wednesday afternoon, killing the four people on board, said authorities and a witness to the aftermath.

According to the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department, officials received the report of the crash at 4:45 p.m.

“The plane was completely engulfed, with surrounding vegetation involved,” the department said in a post on its Facebook page. “Emergency crews are on scene.”

Sgt. Andrea Benson, the department spokeswoman, added that the plane was coming in from the north, hit the runway, veered left and went into a field.

None of the people aboard have been identified, she said.

“There was no communication” between the airport and the aircraft, Benson said, “so we don’t know where they were coming from or where they were going.”

National Transportation Safety Board staff members will come from Colorado on Thursday to take over the investigation.

“We’re containing the scene tonight,” Benson said, and the runway has been kept open to help Cal Fire mop up.

Kye Gunn, an air-ambulance helicopter pilot based at the airport, said his crew was dispatched on a report of a possible patient but knew no more than that.

“We walked out the door, saw fire at the end of the runway” and realized right away it was a plane crash, he said.

He spoke with a National Guard helicopter pilot who saw the crash. The other pilot told him the plane hit wing first, banked hard and came right at him and his crew, who ran. Gunn added, “It came to rest at the back of our helicopter fuel truck. It was driven away so it wouldn’t catch fire.”

His crew quickly was told to stand down because the crash and fire were fatal, Gunn said.

“It turned into a couple-acre fire and caught some vehicles on fire,” he said. “By that time. Cal Fire, the Tuolumne sheriff and the CHP were all there, and local fire.”

Gunn provided the FFA registry number for the plane, which shows it to be a 1958 Cessna 310B owned by a Sonora man. It was not immediately known if the owner was piloting the craft.

Deke Farrow: 209-578-2327