VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) --It's now been eight days since a Tulare County Sheriff's Deputy and pilot died when their plane crashed in the hills east of Porterville. Funeral services for 45-year old pilot James Chavez will take place Saturday morning in Hanford. Services for 52-year-old sheriff's deputy Scott Ballantyne will happen Monday morning in Visalia.
Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said he's received hundreds of handwritten letters expressing condolences after the sudden deaths of sheriff's pilot Chavez and deputy Ballantyne last week. Including some very thoughtful and touching notes from students at Dinuba High School. The sheriff plans to read a couple of them at the upcoming funerals. "Really lets us know that our community cares for their law enforcement and that they know that they're out there doing a job that's incredibly dangerous at so many different levels, but these letters are so important, and really support the men and women of this department," said Boudreaux.
The sheriff said the grieving process is difficult to judge. Some in his department are doing better than others, but everyone feels the loss of Chavez and Ballantyne, who, for unknown reasons, crashed into a hillside in Sheriff One after responding to a call. Little remained of the plane when it was taken away but Sheriff Boudreaux said it will be replaced.
In neighboring Kings County, Sky King One was grounded for a week but is now back in the air after their pilots and flight crew determined it was safe to fly. Sheriff Boudreaux said Tulare County isn't far behind. They've already ordered another plane and expect it to be in the air by May. "It would be what James and Scott would want. They would want us getting back up. They would want us out there fighting crime and serving our community," said Boudreaux.
The funeral processions have been announced by the Tulare County Sheriff's Office. Chavez will be buried at Grangeville Cemetary in Armona and Ballantyne will be buried at Visalia Public Cemetary.