One killed in Petaluma small plane crash

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The pilot killed Friday night when his small plane crashed in Petaluma is believed to be a 75-year-old man from San Diego County, though the investigation is continuing, sheriff's officials said.

The case began when the Sonoma County Sheriff's Office got a call around 6:40 p.m. from the U.S. Air Force about an emergency transponder activation from a small plane in eastern Petaluma.

Deputies couldn't find the plane at the coordinates the equipment gave on Sonoma Mountain. However, around the same time, a woman from San Diego County called Petaluma police to say her husband was overdue home, sheriff's officials said.

The woman's husband was believed to have left the Petaluma Airport en route to San Diego County in his Mooney M20 fixed-wing airplane, according to sheriff's officials.

Shortly after 10 p.m., deputies spotted a small fire in a remote ravine near the 3600 block of Manor Lane. Deputies found the downed aircraft and the body of the man believed to be the pilot, sheriff's officials said.

The deputies secured the scene and notified the National Transportation Safety Board, the independent federal agency that determines the probable cause of transportation crashes.

According to sheriff's officials, the NTSB will investigate the cause of the collision. The Federal Aviation Administration will also investigate, according to Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the agency.

The coroner's office will release the pilot's name when his identity is confirmed, sheriff's officials said.