Kingsburg pilot speaking out after bullet hits crop duster mid-flight; 55-year-old suspect arrested

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Last Friday, agricultural pilot Mark Trinkle went out to fertilize a field. 

Trinkle says, he’s flown it the same way the past four to five years, no problems, until…

“This year, one of the neighbors was, was mad enough to, supposedly shoot at me,” Trinkle said.

Upon landing, Trinkle discovered a bullet hole through the plane’s spreader, which holds fertilizer.

The spreader, only about 7 feet below where Trinkle was seated.

“I love what I do, and, you know, wires, any kind of obstructions in the field, that’s all hazards,” Trinkle said. “But shooting, has never crossed my mind.”

Saturday, Tulare Sheriff Ag Crimes detectives tell us, they acted on witness information regarding suspect 55-year-old Roy Vander Velde, of Visalia. 

“Had made threats of shooting the plane down, for scaring his cattle,” Detective Bryan De Haan said.

Officials serving a warrant at Vander Velde’s home, which detectives say, was next to the farm where Trinkle was flying.

“Something to this caliber, it’s, it’s a pretty serious crime,” De Haan said.

Trinkle, a husband and father of three, now back in the sky.

He says, it’s easy to make flight adjustments, and the whole situation could’ve been resolved, differently.

“Don’t go to the extreme to shoot somebody, you know,” Trinkle said.

That suspect is facing several charges, including shooting at an occupied aircraft and attempted homicide.

Reporting in Kingsburg, Megan Rupe.

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