Deputy, civilian pilot killed in Tulare County plane crash

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A sheriff's deputy and a civilian pilot helping with the arrest of a man in Central California were killed when their single-engine plane crashed near Springville in Tulare County, authorities said.

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux confirmed Deputy Scott Ballantyne and pilot James Chavez died when the two-seater plane crashed and burst into flames after hitting the side of a mountain.

Boudreaux said the aircraft, which belonged to the Tulare County Sherriff's Office, was leaving an area near Springville after assisting deputies in the arrest of a suspect who had brandished a weapon when the plane crashed.

A distress call was not sent out and the parachutes the plane was outfitted with didn't deploy, he said, adding that it was too early to know what caused the plane crash.

"I can say this happened very, very quickly," Boudreaux said.

The FAA investigators will inspect the crash site Thursday and assist local authorities with the probe, he said.

The plane crashed near Eagle Feather Trading Post and Highway 190, which was closed for several hours, and several witnesses called authorities to report smoke billowing from a hillside.