Several roads were reopened Sunday following a mudslide after the Oct. storm. Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works

The detailed probe of a deadly small plane crash in rugged terrain of the Angeles National Forest got under way Thursday as authorities publicly identified the pilot who was killed on his regular commute to the Los Angeles area.

Frederick “Matt” Espiau, 56, of Tehachapi died at the scene of the crash on Wednesday, said Craig Harvey of the coroner’s office. Espiau was the pilot and owner of the airplane, Harvey said.

A Bakersfield television station reported that Espiau’s friends in Tehachapi became worried when he did not return from his normal commute flight from his hometown in the Kern County mountains to the Los Angeles area. It wasn’t clear what Espiau’s profession was.

KBAK-TV reported that fellow pilot and friend Ken Hetge said he would talk over aircraft radio with Espiau. “It was more or less just a common good morning courtesy,” Hetge said. “He’d tell me how the airplane was running and I’d tell him what we had on plan for the day and I would see him on his way.”

The two last spoke the day of Espiau’s last flight during a heavy rainstorm at the time Espiau’s plane took off.

“It was barely good enough to fly,” Hetge said.

There was no word from federal investigators if weather had anything to do with the fatal crash, as the probe was just getting under way.

The airplane had been reported missing last Thursday while en route from Tehachapi to Torrance. The sheriff’s Santa Clarita Station was notified about 10 a.m. Wednesday of the discovery of the wreckage near Pine Canyon, in the Lake Hughes area, about 50 miles north of Los Angeles.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash.

—City News Service

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