TRUCKEE -- A small airplane crashed near Lake Tahoe on Tuesday, killing the pilot and a passenger and critically injuring the only other person on board the single-engine aircraft.
The pilot, who was declared dead at the scene, reported engine trouble shortly after takeoff. He was trying to make it back to the Truckee Tahoe Airport when the plane went down around 7:40 a.m., 10 minutes after it took off, according to the Placer County Sheriff's Office.
A hiker witnessed the plane crash on the west side of Highway 267.
The pilot was later identified as 60-year-old Kenneth Whittall-Scherfee, of Carmichael. He leaves behind a wife and son. According to friends, Whittall-Scherfee recently moved to the Tahoe area.
Two male passengers were flown by a medical helicopter to a Reno, Nevada, hospital with critical injuries. One of them later died, the Placer County Sheriff's Office said.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash.
"It's very unfortunate but every once in a while you could have a freak engine failure upon takeoff," said Corby Jahn.
Jahn, who is a pilot in training, says the 60-year-old pilot's piston aircraft has specific maintenance regulations.
"You're going to have certified mechanics working on this but at the end of the day it is a mechanical machine, which is subject to failure," Jahn said.
Jahn says flying conditions Tuesday morning from the airport were good. But when an emergency happens that soon after takeoff he says landing safely can be tough.
"You prepare the best you can for any potential scenario like that," Jahn said. "A lot of it is pilot skill. A huge part it is making sure the aircraft is safe to fly but accidents happen, unfortunately."
Traffic was delayed for several hours on the state highway connecting U.S. Interstate 80 to Lake Tahoe's north shore at Kings Beach.