UPLAND — The bodies of all three members of a volunteer Civil Air Patrol search team were found Sunday in the wreckage of their light plane in the San Gabriel Mountains, a tragic end to an attempt to find a plane and pilot missing for two weeks.
The commander of the patrol’s California wing, Col Angelo A. Porco, said it was the first time in 12 years that one of its search missions ended in a fatal crash. Among the victims was pilot Robert A. Leman, 48, of San Jose, a frequent leader not only of search missions but of emergency flights to deliver organs for transplants.
The colonel said that after searching for little more than an hour, the plane plowed into a saddle at the 7,700-foot level between Mt. Baldy and Pine Mountain at 11:36 a.m. Saturday. That was the time, Porco said, that the Cessna 182’s emergency locator transmitter began sending out a signal- without any prior warning of trouble from the craft.
In the rugged terrain, and amid occasional wind and rain storms, it took other air units and ground rescue teams all day and night to designate a half-mile search area, he said.
Then, around 9 a.m. Sunday, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s rescue helicopter spotted the wreckage.
Within 25 minutes, the sheriff’s Air 5 rescue helicopter arrived on the scene, and paramedics using ropes climbed down to the plane. All the victims were still in the aircraft.
In its Final Report on December 4th 1995, the NTSB found the Probable Cause of this accident to be:
The pilot’s loss of aircraft control and subsequent inadvertent stall/spin following an encounter with a localized mountain wave condition and turbulence while conducting a search mission in close proximity to mountainous terrain.