A deceased person, believed to be missing pilot LeRoy Del Don of Patterson, was found Tuesday in the wreckage of a Beechcraft aircraft in Calaveras County, the sheriff’s office announced.
Officials said the wreckage was found around noon about a mile south of where the plane disappeared from radar, in an area west of Mountain Ranch. The pilot could not be positively identified, but “circumstanial evidence” suggested that it was the missing plane, an advisory said. It appeared to have hit one or more trees before coming to rest on a steep hillside.
“Our condolences are with LeRoy Del Don’s family and friends,” the statement said.
Del Don, 75, had not been seen since he flew out of a private airstrip near Grayson on Friday afternoon. He planned to go directly to the Columbia Airport and then drive to Pinecrest, according to the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Department.
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When he did not arrive in Pinecrest as planned, his wife became worried and had a friend check the Columbia hangar. The plane — a twin-engine, propeller-driven 1967 Beechcraft Baron — was not there.
Local investigators planned to work the crash scene through the night and expected the National Transportation Safety Board to join the effort Wednesday.
Del Don was part of Del Mar Farms on the West Side of Stanislaus County. Tuolumne County officials said he had been a pilot for more than 40 years and also a flight instructor. He had no known medical issues.
Earlier Tuesday, officials asked the public to not fly drones in the search area because they could interfere with other aircraft.
“Although we appreciate others’ efforts, if drones are in the area, all other aircraft involved in the search will have to be grounded,” the Calaveras department posted on Facebook .
The search involved dozens of agencies and other partners, hampered at times by the unusual stormy weather.
Bee staff writer Deke Farrow contributed to this report.
John Holland: 209-578-2385