Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Beechcraft V35B Bonanza, N818S: Fatal accident occurred September 04, 2020 in Three Rivers, Tulare County, California

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. 

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity: 
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Fresno, California

Location: Three Rivers, CA
Accident Number: WPR20LA295
Date & Time: 09/04/2020, 1148 PDT
Registration: N818S
Aircraft: Beech 35
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - Personal 

On September 4, 2020, about 1148 Pacific daylight time, a Beechcraft 35 airplane, N818S was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Three Rivers, California. The pilot and the passenger sustained fatal injuries. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

After family members of the pilot became concerned when he did not arrive at his intended destination, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an alert notice (ALNOT) for the airplane. The wreckage was discovered in mountainous terrain in Sequoia National Park early morning on September 5, 2020. According to first responders, a postcrash fire ensued following the impact.

Preliminary radar data depicted a primary target consistent with the accident airplane depart Visalia Municipal Airport (VIS), Visalia, California, about 1125 and flew east on a 1200 non-discreet code. The airplane flew toward rising terrain south of Silver City, California, and the last recorded radar target was about 1148.

The pilot was flying in an area of reduced visibility due to smoke from nearby wildfires.

There were no reported witnesses to the accident sequence. 

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Beech
Registration: N818S
Model/Series: 35 V35B
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None 

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site:
Condition of Light:
Observation Facility, Elevation:
Observation Time:
Distance from Accident Site:
Temperature/Dew Point:
Lowest Cloud Condition:
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction:
Lowest Ceiling:
Altimeter Setting:
Type of Flight Plan Filed:
Departure Point:

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: On-Ground
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: Unknown
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 36.401944, -118.613333

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email eyewitnessreport@ntsb.gov, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email assistance@ntsb.gov. 

Garry Zinger had an infectious smile.

If you needed a lift, Zinger was there.

"I met him when I was 21," Darrell Tunnell said. "He was a lot older than I was but considered we were the same age. He had a youthful personality."

Tunnell was a mechanic at the Visalia Municipal Airport and Zinger was a pilot, who also had his aircraft mechanic license. Tunnell now owns and operates Aircraft Mechanical Services at the airport and hosted Saturday's celebration of life for Zinger, 82. 

Hundreds gathered in Tunnell's hangar to pay their respects and share stories about the Visalia legend. A Missing Man Formation flyover was held in Zinger's memory and a flag dedication was presented at Congressman Devin Nunes' office. 

"I had so many good times with him," Tunnell said. "He was a fixture and a staple of Visalia airport." 

The men maintained their friendship for 39 years. 

Makenzie Zinger — Garry's granddaughter — also shed light on who her grandfather was. Her grandfather had the "heart and soul of a young boy" and was "pretty legendary."  

He taught Makenzie how to fly and "live life on the edge," she said. 

"My grandpa was one of a kind," she said. "He'd do anything to help a friend or stranger in need." 

Garry was born on July 10, 1938, in Swan Lake, Manitoba, Canada. He moved to Visalia in 1973 and later started work as a pilot for Security Transport. 

"If you never took a ride with my grandpa, I guarantee he would have offered you one," Makenzie said. 

Garry died alongside Brian Christopher Nepinsky, 45, on September 4th in an airplane crash near Sequoia National Park. 

The plane, according to airport officials, left Visalia Municipal Airport that morning on its way toward Needles, near the Nevada border and Mojave Desert. Nepinsky and Zinger were supposed to arrive the same day.

Radar tapes showed last location to be near the Upper Horse Creek drainage in Mineral King wilderness. Both men were experienced pilots. Tunnell estimated Zinger began flying when he was 15 years old.

When asked what Tunnell wanted people to know about his longtime friend, Tunnell simply said: "His generosity."

Before rental cars were a staple at the airport, anyone who landed at the airport in need of a vehicle, Garry would offer them his truck. He'd then ask Tunnell for a ride home. 

"I don't think someone ever didn't gas it up before bringing it back," Tunnell added. 

That generosity was expressed by numerous people who attended Garry's celebration of life. 

Carlos Lopez was working at Alejandra's Restaurant in downtown Visalia when he met Garry — a regular. One day, Garry offered to give Lopez a ride in his plane. 

"He was very welcoming," Lopez said. "He gave me that first experience." 

Their friendship spanned for more than seven years and multiple airplane rides. Four years ago, Lopez moved to Las Vegas. Whenever Garry would fly in the city the two would go out to dinner and grab a margarita, or two. 

"I was devastated when I heard the news," Lopez said. 

The pilot community is a close-knit group, according to Kryss Crocker of Santa Cruz.

Crocker has been a private pilot for 20 years. She met Garry roughly 12 years ago through her sister, who is also a pilot.  

"We went flying with him on occasion," she said. "He was always an upbeat guy. He always had a good attitude... he's going to be very missed." 

Kevin Mizner, a retired captain for the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, went on several adventures with Garry during his time with the department.

A flight from Visalia to Arizona was particularly memorable for Mizner. 

At the time, whenever the department was in need of a pilot, Garry was often requested. Mizner and another deputy were asked to tour a jail facility in Arizona. 

Garry was to fly the men and a state official to the facility.

When they left Visalia the weather was clear, however, when they arrived in Sacramento to pick up the state official, they'd encountered a bad storm. 

"I looked at Garry and said, 'We're probably going to be sitting here for a bit,'" Mizner said. 

Garry informed the deputy that as soon as he got the "all clear" they would be back in the air. Not long after, Garry and his passengers were soaring through the storm. 

"Garry looked like he did it with the ease of the moment," Mizner said. "It was a cakewalk for him... I always felt we were in good hands." 

Brian Christopher Nepinsky
JULY 27, 1975 – SEPTEMBER 5, 2020

Brian Christopher Nepinsky passed away tragically on September 4th, 2020. He will be dearly missed by his loving wife of 14 years and children, as well as his parents and many brothers who were like family to him. He was a motorcycle enthusiast, loved to scuba dive, ski and go boating. He cherished every day with his wife and daughters. He leaves behind so many dear friends and we all will miss his quick smile, adventurous spirit and fun personality. A memorial Open House and Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, September 26, 2020 from 3:00-6:00pm at Summerlin Ranch 28962 Road 168 Visalia, CA. 93292. Our Chaplain will have remarks at 4:00 followed by the sharing of memories of Brian by family and friends.

Valerie Nepinsky, Wife
Karis Nepinsky, Daughter
Kyndell Nepinsky, Daughter

The two men who were killed in an airplane crash over Sequoia National Park have been officially identified.

The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office identified the crash victims as Brian Christopher Nepinsky, 45, and Garry William Zinger, 82.

Witnesses at the airport said that Zinzer was the pilot but the plane belonged to Nepinsky.

The crash was reported just after 4 a.m. on Saturday. Deputies were told that the plane left Visalia Municipal Airport around 11 a.m. Friday on its way toward Needles, near the Nevada border and the Mojave Desert.

Nepinsky and Zinger were supposed to arrive early Friday afternoon. However, they never arrived.

Deputies eventually found the plane and the victims near Eagle Lake in Sequoia National Park.

Radar tapes showed the last location to be near the Upper Horse Creek drainage in Mineral King wilderness — not far from the now 68,000-acre Sequoia Complex Fire burning in the forest.

It's possible that smoke from the nearby fires in Sequoia National Forest impaired visibility.

"It is...in the vicinity of the SQF Fire Complex in an area impacted by smoke," said Sintia Kawasaki-Yee, spokeswoman for Sequoia National Forest.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.


  1. first and foremost, Above Ground Level, or AGL, the literal height above the ground over which you're flying has to be observed, known and respected.


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