A pilot from New York was killed Wednesday afternoon when a borrowed plane crashed into a field off east Arrowhead Road just south of Eagle Valley Golf Course.
"Witnesses have indicated there was some sort of abrupt change in the sound of the motor and that the plane appeared to bank and go straight into the ground," said Sheriff Kenny Furlong.
Authorities have tentatively identified the pilot through a wallet found in the wreckage. The name of the 61-year-old man was being withheld pending notification of next of kin. Police were having a difficult time finding the man's family, Furlong said. The plane is registered to a Carson City business, but he declined to name it.
Investigators are trying to determine why the man, who appears to be from Long Island, was in Carson City and if he was coming from or going to the Carson City Airport. Pilots are not required to log their flight plan with the airport.
Mound House residents Ann Weaver and Maria Moreno were walking on the East Course when they heard a sound that made them look skyward.
"Then we just saw this plane spinning out of control," Weaver said. "I was hoping it would come back up, but it didn't come back up."
The two watched in horror as the six-seater Cessna 337 plummeted. They lost sight of it as it slammed into the earth.
Weaver said the sound of the impact was nothing compared to a roaring boom that followed five minutes later when a fuel tank exploded into a blue ball of fire.
The flames ignited a 1-acre brush fire Carson City firefighters contained within an hour.
Furlong said it's unclear if there was anyone else in the aircraft besides the pilot.
"(The plane) was absolutely demolished by the impact with the ground and the fire."
Jay Bradley said he was driving on Highway 395 from Reno when he saw the white cloud of smoke rising from the east horizon. Bradley is all too familiar with the hazards of living near an airport.
On May 13, student pilot Buz Devoll crashed his plane into the sound wall that separates Bradley's Debbie Way back yard from Graves Lane. Devol suffered injuries, but survived. The cause of that crash is still under investigation.
"I thought it was my house again," Bradley said as he looked at the charred wreckage surrounded by yellow police tape. He shook his head in the realization that his crash was nothing like the one he was standing before. "I just thank God mine didn't explode."
Furlong said crews from the National Transportation and Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Association will be at the site today to sort through the wreckage. He assigned deputies to keep an overnight vigil at the site to prevent contamination of the scene.
"We'd love to find out where this plane took off from originally," Furlong said. "My guess is there's some family waiting for him to come home."