COLUMBIA, Calif. (AP) — Four family members died in a small-plane crash at a Northern California airport earlier this week.
Family and friends identified the pilot as Daniel Kruetzfeldt; his wife, Kristen Kruetzfeldt; his mother, Mary Chandler; and his stepfather, Claude Chandler, the Modesto Bee newspaper reported Friday (http://bit.ly/2aD4z21 ). The Kruetzfeldts leave behind three children.
Daniel Kruetzfeldt, 43, was trying to land a 1958 Cessna 310B at a small airport Wednesday when it veered off the runway, into vegetation and caught fire. Witnesses said they saw the plane coming in, hitting wing first and making a sharp left into dry grass and rocks.
About 110 planes use the Columbia Airport in Tuolumne County, 130 miles east of San Francisco. There is no air traffic control at the airport.
"What a loss it is to everybody to not have Claude and Mary anymore," friend Pamela Blair told Sacramento news station KOVR-TV. "They were quiet and caring people who were very involved in the community."
Blair said the younger couple had three children, ages 10, 12 and 18.
Friends and family say the Chandlers were active people who loved the outdoors. Mary and Claude Chandler were married nine years; it was a second marriage for both.
Mary Chandler, 72, was known as an excellent wood carver who worked at the Tuolumne Historical Museum. Claude Chandler, 69, enjoyed backpacking and camping and was an expert fisherman.
The Chandlers raised sheep and llamas, and sometimes they brought along the animals on backpacking trips to carry their equipment, Mary's brother Tom Parrington said.
Parrington said he did not know where the family had gone Wednesday but that Daniel Kruetzfeldt was a professional pilot who had worked for the corporate jet charter company Net Jets for at least 20 years.
"We were a small family, and this wiped out about a third (of it)," Parrington said.
Flight instructor Chris Miller told The Union Democrat newspaper that the crash was the deadliest he recalled at an airport that has its "idiosyncrasies" but is not any more difficult to land at than other airports.
The victims were from Sonora, California. Authorities have not officially identified the bodies.
Information from: The Modesto Bee, http://www.modbee.com