Carson City men survive plane accident at Tahoe

A pair of Carson City men are unhurt after their seaplane malfunctioned, flipped over and eventually sank Thursday morning into Lake Tahoe's waters just south of Burnt Cedar Beach at Incline Village.

The men " pilot Frank Hublou and co-pilot John Schottenheimer " were attempting to take off from the water. The plane eventually sank in 30 feet of water, after taking on too much water for officials to safely beach the vessel.

The aircraft, a Republic Seabee, leaked about 30 to 40 gallons of fuel into Lake Tahoe.

As of press time Thursday, Hublou and others were towing the aircraft from the lake, about a half-mile east of Burnt Cedar.

The seaplane took off at about 11 a.m. Thursday in the lake, about one mile south of Burnt Cedar Beach, and it immediately began taking on water, said Boatsman's Mate 2nd Class Adam Season, of the Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe in Lake Forest, Calif.

Hublou and Schottenheimer told Washoe County Sheriff's Office Deputy Ben Coffindaffer, who was the first rescuer on the scene by Jet Ski, that once the plane started to take off, its right pontoon began to take on water, spinning the plane multiple times.

Battalion Chief Scott Sutter, of the North Lake Tahoe Fire Department, was notified at 11:04 a.m. by Nevada Civil Air Patrol that the plane was in distress, about four minutes after takeoff.

Within a minute of takeoff, the plane flipped over onto its top, Coffindaffer said.

Coffindaffer said boaters out of Crystal Bay were able to pull Hublou and Schottenheimer out of the water after they extracted themselves, uninjured, from the plane. Hublou owns the plane.

"They were both fine and out of the water by the time I got there," Coffindaffer said. "They said they took off, did a few pirouettes and then the plane listed to the right and flipped over."

Both Hublou and Schottenheimer were pulled from the water after about 10 minutes, Coffindaffer said. He said the water temperature hovered around 64 degrees. The two used seat cushions to stay afloat.

Neither Hublou nor Schottenheimer was available for comment.

Fuel leaked from the seaplane, which carried about 30 to 40 gallons of fuel, should not have any long-term effects on Lake Tahoe's water clarity or quality, according to lake officials and scientists.

"It'll evaporate from the surface and the water will get diluted out fairly quickly," said Glen Miller, a University of Nevada, Reno natural resource and environmental science professor who has done extensive research into the effects of fuel on Lake Tahoe's waters. "This is unlikely to present a long-term problem and would not be considered an major addition to the existing issues."

Absorbent booms were placed around the spill site, said Jay Schmidt, a volunteer rescuer.

The absorbent booms may have mitigated much of the fuel leak, said Dennis Zabaglo, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency watercraft program manager.

"The first responders were able to soak up quite a bit of it so the remainder that's there will be a smaller amount" Zabaglo said.

The Incline Village General Improvement District water intake valves, positioned off of Burnt Cedar Beach about a quarter-mile away from the sinking plane, began shutting down at 11:45 a.m. and were completely shut down by 12:05 p.m., said Mike Pennacchio, IVGID Risk Management officer.

After some water tests later in the day, IVGID Director of Public Works Joe Pomroy confirmed the water was not contaminated. The pumps remained closed into Thursday afternoon as a precaution.


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