Fuel spill from sunken plane far less than was estimated
Sun News Service
INCLINE VILLAGE “-The amount of fuel spilled from a seaplane that sank in Lake Tahoe last Thursday is much less than originally believed, officials say.
Greg McKay, assistant fire chief for the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, estimated only about 1 gallon of fuel spilled from a Republic Seabee that flipped over and sank off Incline Village beaches. That is much less than officials’ original estimate of 30 to 40 gallons of fuel.
Through the use of absorbent booms, personnel from the NLTFPD and U.S. Coast Guard were able to soak up most of the spilled fuel and oil while the plane was raised to the surface and transported to Ski Beach after it sank about a half-mile east of Burnt Cedar Beach.
McKay said once the sealed, 40-gallon fuel tank of the airplane was opened, about 29 gallons of fuel was discovered.
He said any fuel that escaped was simply oil from the plane’s gears and fuel on the outside of the tank.
Glen Miller, a University of Nevada, Reno, natural resource and environmental science professor who has done extensive research into the effects of fuel on Lake Tahoe’s waters, said the spill likely would evaporate shortly after it hit the water and would present no immediate threat.
The plane, flown by Carson City resident Frank Hublou and co-piloted by Carson City’s John Schottenheimer, began to take on water after one of the pontoons snapped and opened.
Neither was injured as the plane took on water and eventually flipped over Thursday. Both Hublou and Schottenheimer, Vietnam-era Air Force veterans, were able to swim to the safety of passing boats and suffered no injuries.
Hublou’s plane, however, sank after rescue boats towed it for hours.
Divers from Tahoe City-based High Sierra Marine Inc. placed inflatable bags inside the plane to float it back to the surface before they could tow it to Ski Beach.
Once there, private residents and the employees of the Incline Village General Improvement District worked to pull the plane onto the beach. It later was dismantled and taken for investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration, which has yet to release an official cause of the accident.
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