At approximately 12:30pm on Saturday May 19th, club member Jan Zanutto launched in his personal single seat glider from the glider port at Avenal, CA. He reported established in lift nearby and was observed climbing above his release point. Approximately 1:30pm he reported via the radio that he was climbing in a thermal at 10kts. That was the last radio transmission that was heard at the gliderport from him.
It was a strong soaring day with multiple pilots enjoying long cross country flights. Jan was an experienced cross country pilot and it was believed that he was taking advantage of the excellent soaring conditions.
When the last few gliders returned to the airport late in the day without Jan returning, 911 was called to initiate search and rescue operations. Two members launched in the towplane to initiate a search before dark. At approximately 7pm, the search pilots saw a wing on a slope. After orbiting the area they located the main fuselage nearby. The position of the aircraft was recorded and relayed to public safety personnel.
Personnel from Kings County Sheriff and Cal Fire found the wreckage a little after 11:30pm and confirmed that Jan had been found deceased.
Investigation into the accident is ongoing and in the hands of the NTSB.
The Central California Soaring Club mourns the loss of our close friend and our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.