Action News exclusive: Plane crash site, widow speaks out

FRESNO, Calif.

The crash that killed Patrick and Scott Clarke left behind a lot of damage -- both emotional and physical.

Investigators tell Action News the pieces of the puzzle are just starting to come together, but there are a few details that were obvious in video of the wreckage that you'll only see on Action News.

The damage could've been a lot worse, but there's no way anybody could've survived the crash.

Flipped upside-down and burned from the inside out, the Cessna 421 is barely a shell of its former self.

A propeller blade on the twin engine plane points straight up to the sky from which it fell extremely quickly on Saturday night.

As it descended, the plane lost pieces of its wings and tail, giving investigators a challenge as they try to explain the crash.

"They're just pieces of the puzzle, so we'll be laying the wings out, when we find them, with the rest of the wreckage," said NTSB investigator Eliott Simpson.

Fire burned through the cockpit, but only a small circle burned around the crash site.

And the plane didn't cut through any trees as it fell to the ground in one of the few open fields on this national forest land.

Anesthesiologist Scott Clarke took off from Salinas a little after 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

His flight plan was supposed to take him to Omaha, Nebraska, where he planned to drop off his father, Patrick, before heading home to Springfield, Missouri.

Clarke only started flying relatively recently, but his widow says it was a passion he took seriously.

"He was just so concerned about safety always," said Veronica Clarke, from her home in Springfield. "And when we looked at trading in different planes it was always to find a plane that safer, that he felt like would be safer. We went to this twin engine because he wanted our whole family to be able to go on it and because it was such a safe plane."

Mrs. Clarke says her husband was a frequent nighttime flyer, so the late hour of his final flight was never a concern.

Now, she's left with emotional damage to match the physical damage at the scene where life as she knew it came to an end.

"He was a wonderful husband and father anybody could ever wish for," she said. "He lived to take care of us."

Some of the Clarkes' family members actually came to Shaver Lake Monday to survey the wreckage and to arrange to pick up the victims.

The plane itself will be headed, in pieces, to Sacramento, where the NTSB will conduct most of its investigation.

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