A 52-year-old Tracy man died in a plane crash on Sunday after he stole a Cessna 172 in Concord and slammed it into a canal bank in Fresno.
UPDATE | Feb. 13: Pilot was high on meth. Toxicology tests found that the man who stole and crashed the plane had enough methamphetamine in his blood to kill a nonuser. [Fresno Bee]
• A parolee who was high on meth stole a plane in Concord and flew it to Fresno.
• The plane severed power lines and then crashed into a canal bank.
• The man who stole the plane died in the crash.
The plane went down at about 4 p.m., according to a report in the Fresno Bee. An unlicensed pilot, later identified as Ray Pirro, apparently stole the single-engine aircraft from Buchanan Field Airport in Concord. It belonged to Felix J. Boston of Walnut Creek.
Pirro flew the plane toward Fresno, where it severed power lines before slamming into a canal bank alongside Barstow Avenue about a quarter-mile west of the city limits.
Pirro died in the crash. No one else was on the plane.
Department of Corrections records showed that Pirro had been on parole since 2008, according to a CBS Channel 47 News report. California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation spokesman Luis Patino told the Bee that Pirro had checked in with his parole officer three days before the crash, when he submitted to a drug test. Results of that test were not released.
After the crash, the plane’s owner drove down to Fresno to see the mangled aircraft, which he said he bought in 2006.
“I loved that plane,” Boston said. “I take a lot of charity flights over the Golden Gate Bridge.”
Boston said he auctioned off rides in the plane to raise money for scholarships and organizations that help the homeless. Now that his plane is totally wrecked, he won’t be able to do that anymore, he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash.
This wasn’t the first time Pirro had crashed a plane. Even though he was not licensed to fly, Pirro once owned a single-engine Cessna 175. He crashed it near the Tracy airport in November 1988, NTSB records show.The accident report said Pirro’s plane ran out of fuel and nosedived near the airport. Pirro abandoned the plane. He was not injured in that crash.
Here is a video of the scene:
Fortunately, planes are rarely stolen, according to Bob Collins, president of the Aviation Crime Prevention Institute in Florida. Less than a dozen are reported stolen each year in the United States. But it’s fairly easy to get a stolen plane off the ground.
“You can take off into air space with no one interrupting you,” Collins said. “You don’t need permission to take off and don’t need permission to land.”
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