SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. -- A Civil Air Patrol plane crashed shortly after takeoff from the South Lake Tahoe airport early Saturday morning, but all three people aboard escaped major injuries, authorities said.
El Dorado County sheriff's Deputy Warren Berg said the single-engine Cessna 182 came to a rest upside down after an emergency landing in a meadow behind a Longs Drug Store here a mile north of the airport.
"It's miraculous," Berg said. "They had problems immediately and did the right thing. They were lucky to have a big, wide meadow to land in."
The three aboard -- all from the South Lake Tahoe area -- were en route to Winnemucca, Nev., to join a search for a missing Cessna plane and its pilot from Reno, Nev.
Pilot Valerie Dearborn, 51, was taken by ambulance to Barton Memorial Hospital with a possible ankle fracture, Berg said.
Co-pilot Todd Hallmayer, 52, escaped with a facial cut, while Glenn Smith, 74, was treated and released at the hospital after reporting chest and shoulder pains.
Smith attributed the 6:17 a.m. crash to mechanical problems.
"We were climbing at too fast a rate," he said. "They (pilots) were pushing all the way forward on the yoke but it was not responding.
"She (Dearborn) just did a wonderful job ... She just glided it into the best site she could. Fortunately, it was real soft landing material."
Federal investigators are searching for the cause of the crash.