Small plane crash claims life of Bakersfield man

A 45-year-old man was killed when his ultralight aircraft crashed into his friend's backyard Sunday night. On Monday, that friend reflected on the victim and the accident.

A small plane crash Sunday night near Shafter claimed the life of a Bakersfield man. The 45-year-old pilot, Todd Magsam, was killed when he lost control of his ultralight aircraft (a small, slow, low-flying plane) while flying over his friend’s property.  

On Monday, that friend, who was flying in a separate plane alongside Magsam when the accident happened, spoke to 17 News about crash. 

“I was in the process of circling above the property at 3,000 feet, looking at some landscaping I'd just put in and that's when I saw the accident,” said Walt Weishaar, who first met Magsam at the Shafter Airport (Minter Field) in 2000. 

Weishaar says he was not using radio communication to talk to Magsam and only became aware his friend had crashed when he saw a cloud of dust rising from the ground.  

“What I noticed was a large ball of dirt, and I saw the tail of Todd's aircraft come out of the ball of dirt, and I'd realized he'd impacted the ground,” he said.  

Weishaar says Magsam had 22 years of aviation experience.  Weishaar, too, is well versed in all things aviation and says experience told him the crash was serious.   

“So at that point, having been around this for a while, I had a pretty good idea of what the outcome was going to be,” said Weishaar. “And, we did everything we could to change the outcome, but it was not possible.” 

Magsam was pronounced dead at the scene.  

Adding to the difficulty of losing a friend is the fact the accident happened in Weishaar’s backyard.  In fact, the small plane was still in a field behind Weishaar’s home near Shafter on Monday.  Weishaar said he and friends were going to disassemble the plane and return it to Magsam’s relatives late Monday.  

“It's obviously a loss when you lose a friend like that, and when it happens right in your backyard, you know, what can you say?” asked Weishaar. 

Weishaar isn’t sure exactly how his friend lost control of the ultralight aircraft.  But, he does know one thing about the accident – and it’s provided him a bit of comfort. “He died doing what he loved,” said Weishaar.  “And, that was the way Todd lived.  He lived in the moment.”


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