BY ERIN TRACY
A small private airplane crashed near the Modesto airport shortly after takeoff Wednesday afternoon, killing the pilot.
The plane, a Cessna, crashed at 1:07 p.m. east of Mitchell Road and north of the Tuolumne River, according to Modesto Police Sgt. Robert Gumm. He said the plane was taking off when it experienced some type of malfunction.
The unidentified pilot died in the crash, according to Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Sgt. Erich Layton. He was alone in the plane.
The plane is registered out of the Bay Area to a company that appears to charter and lease planes, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
Deputy Raj Singh said multiple people traveling on Mitchell Road witnessed the crash.
“Witnesses said the plane was making a left-handed banked turn and for unknown reasons it went down almost like a nose dive,” Singh said.
Northbound Mitchell Road is closed north of River Road, according to the California Highway Patrol. The left northbound lane is expected to open by 5 p.m. but the right lane, where a law enforcement command post is set up, will remain closed for at least the next 24 hours, said Singh.
He said officials from the the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are expected to get to the scene Thursday.