Decades-old plane wreckage found in Sierra

August 28, 2012 12:15:59 AM PDT
The discovery of plane wreckage high above the Fresno County mountains may help solve a decades-old mystery.

Debris from a plane was found by a hiker near Huntington Lake in the Sierra National Forest.

A woman out on a Sunday hike was startled to find plane wreckage in a remote area. The National Transportation Safety Board believes the debris dates back to 1971.

The wreckage was discovered by Salida schoolteacher Laurel Peterson on Sunday. She spotted a portion of a wing leaning against a rock. Peterson owns a cabin near Huntington Lake and decided to hike to place called Horse Thief Creek.

"And then I look up and see this orange thing and say 'uh oh. What is that?' I thought it was a hiker so I hollered and didn't get an answer. When I hiked up to it and stepped around the rocks I realized it was an airplane," Peterson said.

Peterson said one of the pieces was red and white with a big black star. A Sheriff's Office photo appeared to show the word "Navy" on one piece.

"There was a big black box and a big red box. Most of the wheels, tires were still there," Peterson said.

Lt. Robert Salazar of the Fresno County Sheriff's Office says the National Transportation Safety Board told him a plane went down in the area in 1971 and it was aware of the crash site. The search team found it difficult to reach the wreckage.

"The elevation is at the 8700 foot level. Very mountainous, very rugged, rocky, a lot of trees, very steep terrain," Lt. Salazar said.

Those familiar with the area say it is not a well-traveled path.

"There's a lot of snow up in that elevation level so it could have been covered for years under snow," Lt. Salazar said.

The sheriff's office is now documenting its findings. It will again contact the NTSB to determine what will be done with the crash wreckage.

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