Private services today for South Lake Tahoe business man killed in plane crash

STATELINE - A private service is today for a South Lake Tahoe businessman killed in a plane crash last week.

Friends and family of Mark Michelsen will gather this morning at Our Lady of Tahoe Catholic Church in Zephyr Cove.

Michelsen, 48, was killed along with Jeff Needham, 43, and his wife, Maria, 30 and Todd Johnson, 27 when Needham's single-propeller Piper Malibu crashed Sept. 1 three minutes after taking off from Lake Tahoe Airport.

El Dorado County Sheriff's authorities confirmed Friday the identities of three of the Sept. 1 plane crash victims.

Detective Sgt. Bob Johnston said through dental records Jeff Needham, 43, his wife Maria, 30, and Mark Michelsen were all confirmed dead. Positive identification of the fourth victim is still pending because there were no dental records available. According to friends and family the man was 27-year-old Todd Johnson.

"We're hoping to come up with enough evidence to make a positive identification of the fourth victim by early next week," Johnston said.

The remains of the other three victims were released to the families Friday.

The single-propeller Piper Malibu went down three minutes into flight a half-mile east of Lake Tahoe Airport's runway.

Family members and friends confirmed the identities of the victims Wednesday.

The group was headed south to enjoy Labor Day weekend. Needham, owner of Cell Com, a telecommunications business based on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, was flying to Las Vegas and then on to San Diego. Michelsen and Johnson were reportedly planning to get off in Las Vegas and head for Arizona to spend the weekend with friends.

Needham and his wife then expected to fly from Las Vegas to San Diego where Jeff's brother lives.

Needham was an experienced pilot, having flown for at least 15 years, as was Michelsen, who had logged more than 700 hours behind a yoke.

The crash is being investigated by National Transportation and Safety Board.

The six-seater plane left Lake Tahoe Airport at 3:48 p.m. and was heading south when, three minutes into the flight, about a half mile from the runway, it turned east and went into a dive. The aircraft clipped a 90-foot pine before it slammed into pine trees on a vacant lot at the corner of Washoan Boulevard and Acoma Circle and burst into flames just feet from two houses.


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