January 14, Groveland, Calif. / Piper Cherokee 180


At about 14:50 Pacific time, a Piper PA-28-180 was damaged during a forced landing brought on by imminent fuel exhaustion. The pilot was seriously injured. The pilot left Truckee at about 09:45 and was destined for Tulare. He was unable to land because of a low stratus layer, so he diverted to Pine Mountain Lake and landed. He called the Tulare airport and was told the ceiling was 1,500 to 2,000 feet, so he again tried to fly to Tulare. He could not descend through the clouds, so he returned to Pine Mountain Lake, only to find it covered with a stratus layer. The pilot realized he was too low on fuel to reach an airport in VMC and contacted Oakland Center for help. The pilot was unable to find the airports to which Oakland vectored him. The pilot spotted a forestry camp with a windsock near Hwy 120 and opted to land on the highway. However, an oncoming car clipped the wing and sent the airplane into the trees.


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