Investigators picking through the wreckage of a small plane crash discovered near Lake Hughes Wednesday have identified the pilot killed in the crash as 56-year-old Fredrick Espiau.
And neighbors are crying foul over the supposed neglect, by authorities, of his now abandoned dog.
Espiau, a veteran pilot of Bear Valley Springs, who commuted regularly from Tehachapi to Torrance for work. was reported missing Thursday.
Lt. David Smith of the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Department identified Espiau as the man killed in the plane crash.
Investigators with the Coroner’s Department have not yet released an official cause and manner of the pilot’s death, he said.
Espiau, who was well-known in Tehachapi, flew helicopters for the US Army and, at one time, owned a private jet, according to Tehachapi City Councilman Ken Hetge.
“He had thousands of hours of flight time,” Hetge said. “If he didn’t fly to the LA Basin daily he flew there every other day on a regular basis.”
News of Espiau’s crash and death came as a surprise to Hetge, he said.
“He was a dedicated pilot. But, it was very bad weather when he flew,” he said, referring to conditions Thursday Jan. 12, when Espiau was reported missing.
Wreckage of Espiau’s Mooney M20 plane was spotted by other pilots Wednesday morning. By, noon, authorities confirmed it was indeed the wreckage of a small plane.
The Mooney M20 is a plane built by the Mooney Airplane Company that is piston-powered and propeller-driven.
“A plane flying over the area saw what appeared to be wreckage of a plane crash,” Lt. James Duran told The Signal shortly after 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
“We sent up a helicopter and confirmed that there was indeed wreckage,” he said. “And, there appears to be a fatality.”
While authorities have confirmed Espiau’s death, a controversy continues to brew at the pilot’s home over his dog, Hetge said.
The pilot left his dog – a large Akita – inside his home, now left vacant for a week.
Bear Valley authorities have told residents concerned about the dog’s well-being that they have no authority to enter the house.
“It’s ridiculous,” Hetge said, reading a letter sent to authorities by a friend of the deceased pilot.
Vanessa Paola Gonsenheim gave Hetge – and to The Signal – this note:
“The Pilot in the recent plane crash near Lake Hughes was the owner of a dog who has been without food or water for a week now. The dog is locked in the pilots house at 29381 Surrey Wy in Tehachapi.
“While animal control has gone out to visit the premises, they posted a 48hr notice of intent to remove the animal, rather than rescue him immediately.
“Kern county animal control and bear valley police department warned that any attempt to enter the house to provide food and water is unlawful entry and I would be arrested if caught.
This is ridiculous, especially in light of recent legislation that permits breaking into a hot car to save an animal.”
on Twitter @jamesarthurholt