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California Plane Crash Kills Two Tulare Sheriff's Department Employees

by Shamar Walters /  / Updated 

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Two sheriff’s department employees died when their plane crashed into the side of a mountain in California, officials said Wednesday.

Tulare County Sheriff’s pilot James Chavez, 45, and Deputy Scott Ballantyne, 52, had just finished assisting with an arrest when their aircraft went down near Lake Success at about 4:00 p.m. (7:00 pm ET), the department said.

It was not clear what caused the two-seater plane to crash.

“There was no distress signal and the planes parachute was not deployed,” the sheriff's department said. The FAA is expected to begin an investigation on Thursday.

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux described Chavez as “a fantastic pilot” who was a veteran of the California Army Reserve National Guard.

The married father of two had spent more than two years flying for the sheriff’s department both as a staff member and a volunteer. Ballantyne started working for the department in 1989, according to a statement from the sheriff's department.

Image: Sheriff's Deputy Scott Ballantyne (L) and Sheriff's Pilot James Chave
Sheriff's Deputy Scott Ballantyne (L) and Sheriff's Pilot James Chavez pose for a photo with Sheriff One. The two men were killed today when this light sport aircraft crashed into the side of a mountain along Highway 190 near Lake Success just after 4 p.m. Feb. 10, 2016.Tulare County Sheriff's Office

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