Tulare County Sheriff’s Deputy, Scott Ballantyne, 52, and a pilot who worked for the Sheriff’s Department were killed February 10th when their plane crashed into a mountain in the San Joaquin Valley.

Before the crash, both men had flown out to assist deputies on the ground who were tracking down a person wanted for brandishing a firearm. That suspect was arrested, and the plane was about to leave the area near Springville.

The single-engine plane, which the Sheriff’s Department purchased in 2011, crashed about 4:15 p.m. about 10 miles east of Porterville. The plane ignited after it crashed, sending a plume of black smoke into the sky.

The pilot, James Chavez, 45, and Deputy Ballantyne were the only two on the plane.

It’s unclear what caused the crash of the CTLS aircraft. The Sheriff’s Department had clocked about 3,000 hours of flight time in the two-person plane.

Ballantyne was a 26-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department and had been in the aero squadron a little over a year. He started in 1989, beginning his career at Sequoia Field and recently the Visalia Courthouse before being transferred to the air program.