Seafloor Team Discovers Submerged Plane During Routine Testing
Updated: Jul 27, 2021
Folsom Lake is a large, man-made reservoir in very close proximity to Seafloor’s headquarters. It’s also our go-to testing ground for various hydrographic survey equipment aboard our unmanned survey vessels (USVs). While conducting a routine sonar system check on Folsom Lake, Seafloor Systems Inc. hydrographers Jeffrey Riley and Tyler Atkinson came across an unusual object on the lakebed – a submerged plane.
Live feed sonar images from the Blueprint Subsea Oculus appeared to show wings, a fuselage, and tail section of a small aircraft approximately 160 feet below the surface. That prompted the hydrographers to take a closer look. Returning to the site with a submersible ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) fitted with a camera, the crew was able to dive to the bottom to investigate.
Sending the ROV into the depths, Riley maneuvered the ROV into position. Though it was difficult to see in the suspended silt, the lights on the ROV clearly illuminated a propeller and tail. *Upon further research, the plane’s features showed resemblance to one involved in a mid-air collision on New Year’s Day 1965. The Piper Comanche involved in the incident took the lives of all four people onboard. The pilot’s body was recovered, but the three passengers, nor the plane, were seen again.*
*UPDATED; see edits below for updated information from the Placer County Sheriff's Office*
Drought conditions in the California foothills have translated to lower-than-average water levels, making it easier for the sonar system to paint a clear image of the downed plane. Seafloor is working with local law enforcement agencies to determine the feasibility of recovering the aircraft, and eventually identifying it. For now, the origin of the silt-covered aircraft remains unknown.
*Updated statement from the Placer County Sheriff's Office on June 16th, 2021:
"Last week, Seafloor Systems was at Folsom Lake using their sonar equipment when they found a plane under 160 feet of water. At the time, they believed the plane was from a 1965 crash where four people were killed. Of the four people killed, three of the bodies were never found. Dive Team sergeants from the Placer County Sheriff’s Office and the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office went back out with Seafloor Systems technicians yesterday to get more in-depth images of the plane. From the images, they determined that the aircraft was from a 1986 case where a plane went down and NOT the 1965 crash. The 1986 incident was reported and investigated with no fatalities. For now, the plane will remain at the bottom of the lake. The relatives of the deceased from the 1965 plane crash do not wish for others to search for the plane or remains. They would like the final resting place for their family to remain at the bottom of Folsom Lake."