Crews have recovered the body of a pilot whose plane reportedly crashed into Lake Tulloch after colliding with PG&E power lines on June 16.

The plane, with the pilot inside, was recovered from approximately 110 feet below the surface Tuesday evening using a barge and airbags secured by divers, the Calaveras County Sheriff’s Office told the Enterprise.

Authorities have not released the identity of the pilot, who was the sole occupant of the plane. However, a statement issued by a friend of the victim’s family on Tuesday identified the deceased as Trent Johnson of Modesto.

“Our three boys and I are deeply grieving,” stated Johnson’s wife, Sarah Mesenhimer-Johnson in the release. “Right now we are dealing with a sudden yet repeated tragedy. Never would we have imagined that the boy’s beloved father would be taken from us 13 years after their grandfather – my dad – died in the same manner.”

According to his family, Johnson developed a “passion for flying” at a young age and married into a family that shared his interest.

“Trent died on Sunday, Father’s Day, while doing something that gave him such great joy,” read the release.

The aircraft had taken off from Stanislaus County and was reportedly en route to Tuolumne County at the time of the incident, according to the sheriff’s office.

Eyewitnesses reported seeing a yellow, single-engine plane flying low over the Copperopolis lake before crashing into high-tension power lines and diving nose-first into the water near the residential area of Poker Flat, leaving approximately 700 citizens temporarily without power.

The plane was completely submerged before witnesses could administer aid, the sheriff’s office said.

A multiple-agency search and rescue effort was initiated following reports made to authorities at approximately 11:40 a.m. on Sunday. The plane was located Monday afternoon utilizing sonar and a remotely-controlled underwater vehicle.


Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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