A number of government agencies are investigating a small plane crash that occurred eight nautical miles south of Pillar Point Harbor on Tuesday evening. Regardless of what the investigations ultimately reveal, the pilot involved in the crash has added another chapter to a colorful past.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are looking into the accident. A NTSB spokesman said the investigation could take as long as two years.
A Beechcraft BE-36 airplane crashed into the water at about 6 p.m., according to the U.S. Coast Guard. A Coast Guard helicopter crew arrived on the scene by 6:20 p.m., rescuing the plane’s two passengers, who declined medical assistance. The plane sunk into the ocean almost immediately after it crashed.
Coast Guard Lt. Andrew Cole said the plane is unlikely to be salvaged. He added that he was aware of no environmental impact as a result of the crash.
According to his social media, David Lesh is a professional skier and the founder of an outerwear company based in Denver. News reports and social media posts indicate that Lesh is no stranger to daredevil antics. In 2014, he was arrested for second-degree arson while reportedly filming a video in Boulder. On April 1 of this year, a Facebook post on his page said he had been kidnapped by a drug cartel and asked for donations to his outerwear company. His social media post included a fake CNN headline and story describing his alleged capture. Lesh was also reportedly part of a U.S. Forest Service investigation after social media posts showed him snowmobiling on designated wilderness in Colorado, according to news reports.
On Tuesday, Lesh was flying next to another airplane piloted by Owen Leipelt, a 20-year-old San Jose resident who called in the accident. Leipelt posted a video of the crash and rescue on his Instagram page.
Avid fliers, Lesh and Leipelt say they connected over a shared interest in aviation via Instagram. The two pilots said they were planning a photo tour of the Bay Area when Lesh’s plane reportedly had a fuel-related problem.