Tehachapi Assistant City Manager Dave Zweigle and a passenger died July 4 when the Czech L29 Delfin military jet trainer Zweigle was piloting ran into trouble at 1:30 p.m. and crashed onto Old Town Road.
The aircraft was one of three Czech trainers performing flyovers during 4th of July festivities in Tehachapi.
City Manager Greg Garrett confirmed that Zweigle was one of the fatalities.
The identity of the passenger has not been released.
The aircraft narrowly missed houses on either side of the road, leaving a debris trail several hundred yards long on the asphalt road.
The Kern County Fire Department sprayed foam on the wreckage to neutralize the jet fuel.
The crash was in the 20700 block of Old Town Road in Golden Hills, about four miles west of the Tehachapi Airport.
Lt. J.R. Rodriguez of the Kern County Sheriffs Office said the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.
While no homes were damaged, the fire spread several hundred yards around the wreckage, Rodriguez said.
The Sheriffs Office set up a perimeter to secure the area “to make sure we don't have people interfering with the scene, trying to pick up souvenirs,” he said.
Rodriguez described the aircraft as “an older military-style aircraft.”
Old Town Road resident Jeannette Crounse saw the accident happen.
“We were sitting out on the deck,” Crounse said. “We heard them flying over. I said, 'I need to check this out.' It was just in time to watch them go down in the road. I was stunned.
“It went right straight down,” she said. “We saw it hit. There was a huge billow of black cloud right in the middle of the road.”
Crounse said the impact sounded like a sonic boom.
Part of the crash site was in front of the home of George and Anne Marie Novinger, who, Crounse said, are on a cruise in the Mediterranean.
She said that neighbors used shovels and hoses to keep flames from spreading, and the fire department arrived within five minutes.
When the one airplane crashed, the other two aircraft in the formation circled around twice.
“It went straight down. That was the only way it avoided hitting somebody's house, said Crounse's brother, Douglas Reddinger.
Zweigle had been refurbishing the 1960s-era Czech trainer for several years and was in the process of finalizing the aircraft's annual inspection.
Ken Hetge, a pilot and airplane restorer who has a business at the airport, said of Zweigle, “I always knew him to be a very safe pilot, mechanically minded. Safety was a big concern of his.”
Zweigle took off several times from the airport for the July 4 flyovers.
“When he came by my hangar the second or third time,” Hetge said, “he banked and waved at Del [Hetge's wife] and me.”
Tehachapi City Councilman Stan Beckham spoke admiringly of Zweigle:
“Dave was a wonderful family man whose family always came first. He was smart, talented and well rounded man who could work with anyone at any level of life,”
Today is a sad day. Dave was a hero and I, along with many other will miss him terribly. This was a great loss for the city of Tehachapi and my heart goes out to Dave's wife and children; his mother and grandmother who were here visiting and whom I met on July 2.”
TEHACAHPI MAYOR WAS IN ACCOMPANYING PLANE
Tehachapi Mayor Linda Vernon was flying as a passenger in one of the other
L59s when Zweigle's aircraft went down.
"I didn't realize what had taken place until I got back to the airport,"
Vernon said. "I couldn't hear a lot of what was going on, with the helmet
When she exited the plane on landing and learned what had happened, "I was
shocked," she said.
They had been in the air about half an hour, she said.
Vernon was on the original panel that interviewed Zweigle for the job of
airport manager six years ago. She said he made an immediate impression.
"When Dave walked into a room he would light up the room. He had a great
personality, a great smile, a terrific sense of humor.
"It breaks my heart. He'll be terribly missed."
Vernon said Zweigle never had a bad word to say about anybody.
"He was positive, upbeat and smart. He's brought our airport miles in the
last several years to be an important part of our community. He was a great
advocate for the city and a hard worker."