More details emerged on Monday afternoon as to what caused the downing of a single-engine Cessna 172 on Sunday morning, Aug. 22, at the Mammoth Airport. According to a report from the Mammoth Lakes Police Department, at about 8:20 a.m. the plane, piloted by David Tharp, 48, of Ridgecrest, managed a successful takeoff, but on the northwest part of the runway (facing Mammoth Mountain) just at the end of the hanger row, Tharp said the aircraft became caught in a downdraft and lost enough lift that he was unable to power through it.
On board were four persons, two couples, returning to Ridgecrest-Lancaster area, who all sustained injuries ranging from minor to moderate. Everyone had cuts and bruises and experienced a hard landing, but MLPD said that the passengers and pilot were all treated at Mammoth Hospital. At least preliminarily there has been no indication of any life-threatening injuries. In addition to Tharp, the other passengers were identified as his wife: Katharine Tharp, 32, also from Ridgecrest, and Thomas Miller, 48, and his wife, Karla Miller, 47, both of Lancaster.
Long Valley Fire, based at airport, responded immediately, with backup from Mammoth Fire Department. The plane was leaking some aircraft fuel, but did not catch fire. Mono County Paramedics also responded and shepherded the plane’s occupants to Mammoth Hospital. A Mammoth Sheriff’s Deputy assisted MLPD in securing the scene. The airport was closed briefly immediately following the crash, but it was soon determined that the plane ended up well away from taxi and takeoff areas. Once the airport was deemed secure, air traffic flow was quickly restored. Horizon Airlines’ Los Angeles flight later that day wasn’t impacted at all.
The MLPD said they’ve ruled out any criminal activity, and the Federal Aviation Administration office in Reno has taken over the investigation, which is being treated so far as a simple accident, likely weather-related. Winds were brisk in many parts of the Eastern Sierra that morning. –Sheet Staff/MLPD (Stay with www.thesheetnews.com for any new developments.)