Investigators scoured the wreckage Thursday of a Cessna that crashed in a grove of trees on ranch land south of Columbia Airport.

The victims were 73-year-old Robert Clough and 71-year-old Robert Parriott, both of Sonora. Robert Clough was the pilot, the Sheriff's Office announced. Clough has had a pilot's license since 1975, according to FAA records.

The preliminary cause of death is major trauma; however, the final cause is pending autopsy.

The pilot was trying to land when the crash occurred around 6 p.m., Benedict Stuth, the Columbia Airport manager said. He said the plane was based in Columbia.

A plane is a single-engine Cessna 140A, Ian Gregor with FAA’s Pacific Division said early Thursday.

The plane flipped over, Gregor said. Wreckage of the plane was bent and appeared tangled with a couple trees above a water tank pond on fenced ranch land near the airport.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate, Gregor said, adding the NTSB is the lead agency and it typically takes the NTSB a year or more to determine a probable cause.

The crash site is about a quarter of a mile from the south end of the runway at Columbia Airport.

Several pilots who fly out of the Columbia airport were at the crash scene Thursday morning. They said they knew the pilot, who considered the Cessna his baby.

"My guess is if he had to go, he'd want to go down with his bird," one man said.

The pilots speculated that since the debris was scattered across a relatively small area, the plane came down at a steep angle or nose dive.

Contact Guy McCarthy at or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter @GuyMcCarthy.


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