GALT — An executive and a pilot for the Raley’s Supermarkets chain were killed when their plane crashed in an orchard in Northern California on Sunday, authorities said.
The Beechcraft Baron 58 went down shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday in a marshy area at an almond orchard near Galt, south of Sacramento, Sacramento County authorities said.
Firefighters had to wade and swim to reach the plane, authorities said.
Two men were pronounced dead at the scene. The county coroner’s office identified them as Kenneth Mueller, 56, of El Dorado Hills and 68-year-old Richard Conte of Orangevale.
Mueller was the chief financial officer and Conte the chief pilot for Raley’s Supermarkets, a West Sacramento-based chain with 128 stores in Northern California and Nevada under various brands.
“Our organization is deeply saddened and heartbroken,” the company said in a statement.
The flight wasn’t on company business, Raley’s spokeswoman Chelsea Minor told the Sacramento Bee.
She said Mueller had been with the company for 25 years. Conte had been the firm’s chief pilot for eight years.
The plane went down less than 20 minutes after taking off from Tracy Municipal Airport and had made previous stops at San Andreas and Modesto before the last flight, the Bee reported, citing flight tracking service FlightAware.
It wasn’t immediately clear who was piloting the plane when it crashed.
Conte was well-known and respected in the local aviation community and had helped in investigating a 2005 Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office helicopter crash that killed two people on board, former Sheriff John McGinness told the Bee.
“Richard Conte, that’s the guy who, if something goes wrong with an aircraft, that’s someone you want at the helm of the plane,” McGinness told the paper. “He’s a talented guy.”
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.