A 68-year-old Danville resident was killed in a plane crash on Friday, Nov. 23 near Calaveras County-Maury Rasmussen Field Airport on the eastern side of Highway 49.
Russell Hackler, a long time veterinarian employed at Groveway Veterinary Hospital in Castro Valley, was flying his homebuilt single-engine Coot A-Amphibian aircraft when it crashed into a hillside around 3:40 p.m. Hackler was the only person in the aircraft and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Calaveras County Sheriff Sgt. Chris Hewitt said Hackler's son watched the flight from a bluff and saw the plane crash. Hackler was completing the third run of his plane that afternoon to test its landing gear, Hewitt said.
"He started to turn the plane to the right, then the plane continued to rotate on its axis and turned into a downward spiral," Hewitt said. "His son stated that…the plane was in its downward spiral for less than a second before the right wing was torn from the body of the plane."
Neither Hewitt nor Ian Gregor, public affairs manager for the Federal Aviation Administration, could confirm whether the downward spiral caused the wing to come off or the broken wing caused the plane to spiral.
The National Transportation Safety Board and FAA are conducting an investigation to find out what caused Hackler to crash. Gregor said a preliminary report by an NTSB investigator will be posted within two weeks, but it may take months to develop and report a probable cause for the accident.
Condolences posted on various media sites present Hackler as an experienced pilot and altruist. No plans for funeral services have been announced.
"He truly loved to fly and donated many trips and resources to transport ill children to receive medical attention," wrote Dan Willits. "He was also the Doc of my childhood dog from beginning to end, always with a caring hand and mild manner. We will miss a great man."