Two people killed in Madera County plane crash identified


The two people killed in a Madera County plane crash have now been identified.

Investigators say 76-year-old Joe Kulbeth and 28-year-old Saverio Chimienti Jr. of Fresno were flying in a small single engine plane when it crashed in a field. 

It happened just before 1 p.m. Thursday near Avenue 17 and Road 23.

“We heard all kinds of sirens,” Jesse Lopez said. Lopez, like many others nearby did not know anything happened until he saw the commotion. “We saw the fire truck. We saw the police departments or sheriff’s departments,” he said. 

Law enforcement including sheriff’s deputies and firefighters rushed to the scene.

“Based on witness statements we do understand that the most recent flight this plane took was departed from the Madera airport, however we cannot confirm whether or not that was it’s original departure location,” Kayla Serratto the public information officer of the Madera County Sheriff’s Office said. The field is located about a mile from the airport.

Officials could not say where the plane was heading or what caused the crash.

Rick Miller is an instrumental rated private pilot. He pointed out the lack of fire around the wreckage.

“Sometimes that’s a clue. Not always, but sometimes that’s a clue that lack of fire in a big crash like that, because it looks like it took quite an impact, means there could be a fuel problem,” Miller said. 

He said there are a lot of factors, but the takeoff is generally the most dangerous part of a flight.

The National Transportation Safety Board will take over the investigation Friday morning. 

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