JULIAN, Calif. - The bodies of a man and woman were found early Thursday in the wreckage of a small airplane that crashed in rugged terrain near Julian on a flight from Palm Springs to Gillespie Field, authorities said.
A sheriff's search and rescue team, along with deputies from Julian and a U.S. Border Patrol team, made the discovery around 12:45 a.m. on the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve, roughly four miles northeast of Julian, according to San Diego County sheriff's Lt. Dave Schaller.
Crews removed the remains from the crash site at about 3:15 p.m., sheriff's spokeswoman Jan Caldwell said. It was not immediately clear how the personnel would get the bodies out of the remote area to a spot where the county Medical Examiner's Office could take custody of them.
After an extensive search of the terrain near the wreckage, the dog that was reportedly on board the plane is still missing.
The single-engine, four-seat M20E Mooney fixed-wing aircraft was reported missing by Gillespie Field officials around 6:15 p.m. Wednesday. They told deputies that contact with the plane was lost somewhere over the Julian area, Schaller said.
The sheriff's department had originally wanted to use helicopters in the search but changed plans because of the sleet, snow and high winds, according to sheriff's Sgt. Don Parker. A ground search was conducted instead, with rescuers utilizing a "ping" from the pilot's cell phone number that allowed them to locate the wreckage, Parker said.
10News learned that Andy Thulin, Robbie Rose and their small dog were onboard the aircraft. Neighbors told 10News Rose was a nurse.
Thulin's neighbors expressed shock after hearing news of the crash.
"We used to see them walking their little dog," said Jennifer Jensen, a neighbor. "My dog loved to play with their dog. I know their little dog just had back surgery last week, and we talked about that last week. I'm really shocked."
Doug Collins who lives near the crash site said weather may have been an issue for the small plane.
"It was windy and rainy and misty," said Collins. "It really wasn't good wind to be flying in, that's for sure."
Aviation expert Glen Winn said, "Over the mountains you have up drafts, down drafts, the wind and driving rain we had at times, for a small plane it's just intolerable."
Another neighbor, Mija Kim, was surprised they would fly with weather like that.
"My God, what happened? I'm just in shock," said Kim said.
Because the terrain is so rugged, crews have to ride in on ATVs and off-road vehicles to get to Thulin and Rose, so they can start to understand what went so horribly wrong.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which usually investigates airplane mishaps, is for the moment not going to because of the government shutdown.