Five dead in California crash of Wenatchee company’s plane

The Associated Press
Saturday November 24, 2001

ALTURAS, Calif. (AP) — All five people aboard a light plane owned by an East Wenatchee, Wash., aviation company were found dead Friday when the plane’s wreckage was located in the rugged Warner Mountain Range of northeast California. 

The plane, a twin-engine Aero Commander owned by Commander Northwest, left Reno, Nev., on Wednesday morning en route to Wenatchee. It was spotted by air traffic control radar later that morning southeast of Alturas. 

Modoc County Sheriff Bruce Mix said air searchers located the plane Friday morning about 170 miles northeast of Sacramento. 

Dave Weintraub, chief pilot for Commander Northwest, said from Wenatchee that company personnel were among those who reached the site and contacted him with news that no one had survived. The company provides planes and pilots for hire, he said. 

Weintraub said the plane was carrying Tom Blaesing, owner of Commander Northwest; Brian White, the company’s maintenance director; White’s wife, Jody White; John Peters, co-owner of a Wenatchee area restaurant, and John Topkok, a Commander Northwest pilot who lived in Vancouver, Wash. 

Other than Topkok, the victims lived in the Wenatchee area. 

Weintraub said the five were part of a group that went to Reno on a trip put on by the company for its employees. He said he was flying a second plane that also left Reno on Wednesday but safely reached its destination. 

“It was kind of an end-of-season promotion put on by the company for the employees,” Weintraub said, explaining that the company’s busiest times are in the spring, summer and fall. 

Commander Northwest had five aircraft. It primarily does contract work, such as fire spotting for the U.S. Forest Service and wildlife studies, The Wenatchee World reported. 

Peters was originally from California. He owned a municipal brokerage firm there until he and his wife, Inga, bought the Horan House in 1990. 

He was a frequent community volunteer. 

Brian and Jody White have two children and were expecting a third, according to a family member who asked not to be identified. 

Authorities at first thought the missing plane might have landed at another strip and only contacted the Civil Air Patrol after that theory was discounted, said Lt. Col. Thomas Traver, a patrol spokesman based in Portland, Ore. Search crews did not start looking Thursday because of bad weather. 

Traver said the pilot made no contact indicating trouble. An emergency transmitter that is supposed to send a homing signal following an accident was not activated.