The wreckage of plane of a Pope Valley winery owner who divided his time between the wine country and Nevada was found Friday afternoon in the Sierra, his son said.
Robert “Budge” Brown Sr., 78, of Gardnerville, Nev., was flying a Lancair Legacy single-engine plane from Minden, Nev. to Tracy, the Amador County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. He had been reported missing after his plane failed to arrive in Tracy on Wednesday evening.
His son, Jeff Brown, on Friday evening said he recognized the plane from the news footage of the crash scene near Salt Springs Reservoir in eastern Amador County. The Amador County Sheriff’s Department told him his dad could not be identified yet. But the younger Brown said at 7 p.m. Friday he’s sure it’s his father.
“I know it’s my dad,” said his son, Jeff Brown from Tracy.
Robert “Budge” Brown Jr. owned a Cleavage Creek Winery, 6307 Pope Valley Road, along with Tulip Hill Winery in Lake County, which has a tasting room in Rancho Mirage near Palm Springs.
An experienced pilot, Brown had flown from Nevada to Tracy hundreds of times, authorities said while authorities were looking for the plane. Amador County launched a search-and-rescue mission at 6 a.m. Thursday.
A California Highway Patrol helicopter and Civil Air Patrol helped in the search.
The plane, which left Minden at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, was identified as it flew over Amador County in the Sierra Nevada at about 4 p.m. before it disappeared, authorities said.
The plane lost altitude from 15,000 feet to 12,000 feet and then fell off radar at 11,000 feet in the southeastern area of Amador County in the El Dorado National Forest, according to the Amador County Sheriff’s Department.
The area is heavily wooded and covered with six to eight feet of snow.
A Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said a family member reported the aircraft overdue around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. The pilot was the only person on board, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.
The pilot had not been communicating with, or being tracked by, air controllers, the FAA statement said.
Calls at Brown’s Pope Valley winery, Cleavage Creek Winery, were referred to his son. Jeff Brown, who lives in south Tracy, said his father stayed at his house on the ranch quite a bit.
“He loved it there,” Jeff Brown said.
Robert “Budge” Brown Sr. released his first Cleavage Creek wines in 2007, according to the winery’s website.
Brown, who lost his wife to breast cancer after 48 years of marriage, raises money for breast cancer research, according to the website. The bottle label features the image of a breast cancer survivor, the company said.
According to the company’s website, 10 percent of gross sales are donated to breast cancer research. The company has donated more than $90,000 since 2007.
Jeff Brown said his father was born in Stockton. He owned a water slide park in Manteca, which he sold in 2004. He also owned trucking and sand companies, the younger Brown said.