The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office is mourning the deaths of Sheriff’s pilot James Chavez and Deputy Scott Ballantyne. The two were killed Wednesday, Feb. 10, just after 4 p.m., when the two-seater plane they were in —Sheriff One — crashed into a hillside near Highway 190 and Lake Success in southern Tulare County.
Sheriff One is a light sport aircraft manufactured by Flight Design of Connecticut. This plane was chosen by the Sheriff’s Office because of its reliability, history of performance, safety features, and low cost to operate.
The aircraft was delivered to the TCSO in August 2011 and had more than 3,000 hours of flight time.
Deputy Scott Ballantyne had 25 years of service with the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department. In 2014, he transferred to HQ patrol as a Deputy Observer for Sheriff One.
James Chavez, 45, was hired by the Sheriff’s Office in 2014 specifically to fly Sheriff One. He was hired due to his extensive aviation experience and exceptional piloting skills.
Sheriff One provided aerial assistance to deputies on the ground. It was just after a suspect was apprehended on Wednesday that Sheriff One was leaving the area and crashed for unknown reasons.
There was no distress signal and the plane’s parachute was not deployed. The FAA is in the process of investigating the crash site.