Underwater drone may have discovered 1965 California plane crash wreckage

california plane crash

A chilling discovery made by an underwater drone may have just solved a 56-year-old aviation mystery. A new sonar mapping technology drone has stumbled upon an airplane deep in the waters of California’s Folsom Lake. The near-intact wreckage matches the description of the four-seater airplane that crashed in the area in 1965.

Folsom Lake is located about 30 minutes outside Sacramento. A Piper Comanche 250 aircraft crashed into the lake on New Year’s Day 1965, following a midair collision. While the pilot’s body was recovered, search crews could not find the plane or the three passengers who were on board.

With the relatives of the victims desperate for closure, a second search was attempted in 2014 – on the 50-year-anniversary of the crash. Then also, after three full days of searching, exhausted volunteer divers were forced to give up.

However, when technicians from Folsom-based hydrographic surveying company, Seafloor Systems, got down to the lake this month to test new equipment, they noticed something unusual. While mapping the water depth and the shape of the seafloor, a feature on the bottom of the lake looked as if it were man-made.

Jeff Riley, a hydrographer at Seafloor Systems, shows a sonar image of the the plane wreckage in California’s Folsom Lake

Jeff Riley, one of the hydrographers, told local news outlets:

These lights on the drone allow me to say, ‘OK there is no way that’s a rock’.

So, the team went back again with an underwater drone equipped with sonar mapping technology to confirm their suspicions. And sure enough, it was an airplane. The hydrographers were able to collect clear images of the tail section of the plane as well as the propeller. These match the description of the plane that crashed in 1965. Plus, the team has jotted down the GPS coordinates of the wreckage in Lake Folsom to aid a potential recovery effort.

It’s worth noting that the discovery has been made in the deepest part of the lake, almost 160 feet underwater. The location is also several miles away from where the aircraft was believed to have gone down originally.

But happenstance is not the only reason behind the wreckage’s detection. Much of the western United States is under the grips of a megadrought. As such, the water levels at Folsom Lake are quite low, and that has helped with the discovery.

Related: Drone video shows rapidly shrinking Lake Mead at Hoover Dam

Interestingly, the same combination of a drone and low water levels in a lake recently came together to solve a missing person case from 2009.

A local drone pilot from the Bayside Lakes neighborhood in Palm Bay, central Florida, discovered an upside-down car submerged in a pond while flying recreationally. Further investigation revealed that the car belonged to a man named Philippe Desir who had gone missing 12 years ago. His skeletal remains, including an intact skull, were found in the car by the recovery team.

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