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Small plane crashes into Lake Mendocino in Ukiah

A single-engine ultralight plane crashed into Lake Mendocino in Ukiah at about 10 a.m. Thursday. The pilot, male and 71, suffered only minor injuries, but the plane is submerged in 15-30 feet of water and will be recovered, according to the Federal Aviation Agency and other federal and local authorities.

The Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, which is overseeing the investigation, said deputies responding to the scene found the pilot about 600 yards east of the south boat ramp on exposed land. The pilot had taken off from the Ukiah Municipal Airport with a destination of Potter Valley, where he lives, at about 9:50 a.m., said Mendocino County Sgt. Richard Van Baren.

About 10 minutes after takeoff, the plane began having engine trouble, which caused the plane to lose power. The pilot eventually crash-landed in the lake. He was able to escape the sinking plane and refused medical aid.

County fire officials plan a salvage dive Friday when the plane will be raised with floats, then taken to the south boat ramp, according to a report from Lake Mendocino park rangers issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The owner of the plane will use a trailer to remove the plane, a Rans S-12XL, said Wade Eakle, a Santa Rosa private pilot and ecologist with the Corps of Engineers.

“The lake has receded so far out they are going to have to figure out the logistics,” he said.

Poppy Lozoff, operations project manager with the U.S. Army Corps for Lake Mendocino, said the plane had a small, sealed fuel tank and there was no indication of fuel leakage into the water. Along with the larger Lake Sonoma, Lake Mendocino supplies drinking water to about 600,000 North Bay residents spread among three counties.

“Quite a few agencies are working together to retrieve the plane,” Lozoff said.

The FAA will investigate the crash, according to Ian Gregor, public affairs officer with the agency. The agency does not release the names of private plane pilots.

Staff writers Mary Callahan and Martin Espinoza contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com.

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