1 dead in small plane crash in Whatcom County

A pilot was killed when the small plane he was in went down in the Chuckanut Mountain area south of Bellingham Monday night.

PHOTOS: Plane shattered, pilot killed in crash in near Bellingham

No one else was in the plane.

The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office said that at 8 p.m., emergency dispatchers began receiving reports that an aircraft may have went down in a general area thought to be five miles south of the Bellingham International Airport.

The U.S. Coast Guard and local first responders began investigating reports of a small plane whose pilot had told air traffic control that the plane was going down.  Radio contact was lost and the location of the plane was unknown.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection chopper found the crash scene in the Chuckanut Mountain area near Fragrance Lake. Whatcom County Sheriff's Office search and rescue deputies who reached the crash scene said there were no survivors.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators say the plane crashed in mountainous, tree-covered terrain about 10 miles south of the Bellingham Airport.

Investigators said the debris field indicates the plane hit and scraped trees as it went down.

Authorities said the 1979 fixed wing Mooney M20K, which is registered in Carnation, was being flown to Bellingham from Paine Field for maintenance, according to one of the plane’s owners.

The pilot, a 61-year-old man, had a pre-existing heart condition that may have played a role in the crash, the medical examiner said.

The Sheriff's Office conducted a grid search of the area Monday to confirm that there was no one else in the plane.

The county medical examiner took possession of the pilot's body at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Investigators are working to confirm the identity of the pilot and notify the next of kin.

The NTSB said it could take up to a year to know for certain why the plane went down.

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