17-year-old girl hops fence, crashes plane into Fresno airport: police chief

A 17-year-old girl crashed a plane into an airport in Fresno. Dec. 18, 2019

A 17-year-old girl hopped over a barbed-wire fence, took a plane and crashed the King Air 200 propeller-driven craft into the side of the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, officials said Wednesday.

According to the girl’s mother, her daughter ran away from home Tuesday night and hadn’t been seen until the 7:30 a.m. crash, KMPH Fox 26 reported.

"Fortunately, no one was injured," airport chief of police Drew Bessinger told KTVU. "And there was no fire."

The teen never got the plane in the air. But she did end up crashing it into a fence and the side of the airport building, causing an engine to fall off and a wing to be mangled. 

"It was substantial," Bessinger said of the damage.

Video shows the plane's nose touching the corner of the building. The airport is a joint civil-military airport in central California and the primary commercial airport for San Joaquin Valley and the three surrounding national parks. The teen had taken a privately owned plane, though Bessinger isn't sure how.

"I've talked to experienced pilots about this," he said. "And this is very unusual." 

Bessinger did say it was possible that there were keys left behind in the plane, though the girl's mother told Fox 26 that her daughter didn't even know how to drive a car. 

Airport authorities and Fresno police raced to the tarmac after receiving 911 calls about the security breach and the plane on the move early in the morning.

When crews arrived, they found the teen sitting in the pilot’s seat and wearing a pilot headset. Airport officials said she was disoriented and uncooperative.

Bessinger said the girl was arrested on charges of plane theft, a felony.

He said he has also conferred with the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration and officials do not believe this was an act of terrorism. 

"This was an anomoly," Bessinger said. "It's a strange and rare situation." 

KTVU's Kathleen Casey contributed to this report.

A 17-year-old girl crashed a plane into an airport in Fresno. Dec. 18, 2019