Head injuries caused the death of a 49-year-old real estate agent who owned and piloted a plane that crashed Sunday, a coroner said.
Arnon Matityahu was likely unconscious immediately when his 1975 Scottish Aviation "Bulldog" crashed in rugged wilderness near the border separating El Dorado and Alpine counties near Round Lake.
The official cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, and his skull had multiple fractures, said El Dorado County Sheriff's Coroner Larry Olsen.
Numerous bruises and cuts were on Matityahu's body but did not contribute to his death.
A passenger, 35-year-old Tamar Bar, survived the crash and was rescued Monday afternoon by search crews. She was listed in good condition at Renown Health Care in Reno.
Both were wearing seat belts.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash. Scott Walker, safety representative with the FAA out of the Sacramento Flight Standards District Office, was confident the crash was not related to aircraft problems.
Walker, using information gleaned from media and weather reports, guessed the cloud ceiling was low enough to disorient Matityahu as he left Lake Tahoe Airport at 4:30 p.m. Sunday.
Walker, a flight instructor, said the airport is plenty safe to use but noted some pilots have an urge to return home that overrides common sense. In flight circles, the term is called "get homeitus," Walker said.
"If you start descending in mountain terrain to get under the (cloud) ceiling it's time to get back," Walker said.
Pilots taking off from Lake Tahoe Airport should have a terrain-avoidance plan, basically an escape route when variables such as weather and time of day to "verbalize a way to get out, how you're going to do it and what direction."