GARBERVILLE - An update to this morning's fatal plane crash in Southern Humboldt. The pilot has been identified as 59-year old Dr. Douglas Pleatman. He was the Chief Emergency Room Doctor at Jerold Phelps Hospital in Garberville. We reported earlier today a single engine airplane came crashing down into the South Fork of the Eel River just before 11 Friday morning.
“Appears there is one fatality. Only one. Would be the pilot. And appears the weather was bad as you see right now and at the time of the crash, the weather was also bad,” Sgt. Ken Swithenbank explained.
The rainy weather may have contributed to the small plane crashing into the river below Camp Kimtu Road, but witnesses are also saying there may have also been an issue with the engine.
“Other witness statements aren't sure. They can't confirm this, but it sounds like the engine was not running at the time of the crash,” Sgt. Swithenbank added.
One witness was watching TV in his home when he heard something hit a tree outside, a sound he said he had never heard before. It is unconfirmed, but appears one wing of the plane hit the fir tree and then fell into the water.
“No flames, no smoke, no smell of fuel. Looks like there's no oil leaking in the river at this time. No fuel in the river that we can detect,” Sgt. Swithenbank explained.
. Humboldt County Sheriff’s deputies, Calfire, and Southern Humboldt technical rescue were on scene into Friday afternoon, though they will hand the incident over to the Federal Aviation Administration for further investigation.
“We have spoken with FAA and they are planning on arriving tomorrow. We're going to do scene security until that time,” Sgt. Swithenbank said.
Dr. Pleatman was a resident of Cameron Park, California and commuted by plane on a regular basis.