5 bodies found in plane wreckage in Kern County orchard

BAKERSFIELD — Rescuers pulled five bodies from the wreckage of a small plane that crashed into an orchard in central California after vanishing from radar, local and federal authorities said Sunday.

The Federal Aviation Administration was looking for what caused the crash that killed five people, Kern County sheriff’s Sgt. Mark King said. He expected the names of the victims to be released Monday.

Air traffic controllers lost contact with the single-engine Piper PA32 around 4 p.m. Saturday as it headed from Reid-Hillview Airport in San Jose to Henderson Executive Airport in a Las Vegas suburb, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

The plane sent a mayday call. Searchers spotted the wreckage southwest of Bakersfield about three hours after receiving an alert from the FAA about a missing plane that was last detected an estimated 10 miles south of the city, the Kern County sheriff’s office said.

A meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford said it was rainy and cloudy in the area south of Bakersfield around the time the plane dropped off radar.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigator also was on site Sunday, Gregor said.

FAA records list an address for an owner of the plane. A woman who answered a number listed for that address would only say that her husband used to be part owner of the plane but sold his share.

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