BYRON (CBS SF) — Two men killed in the crash of a two-seat, custom-made experimental plane near Byron on Tuesday have been identified, the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office said Friday.
David Behne, 57, and Larry Strobel, 56, both of Brentwood, were identified following a review of dental records by the sheriff’s coroner’s division, said Sheriff’s spokesman Jimmy Lee.
The single-engine, Glasair III plane, owned by Behne, was heard whirring overhead by a witness before it fell in a corkscrew dive and crashed into a farm field shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday near Marsh Creek Road and Bryon Highway.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the crash.
Earl Hibler, a pilot and longtime friend of Behne, said Friday that he spent much of Thursday at the crash site with two others picking up pieces of the plane to return what is left to the Funny Farm airstrip, the private airport that Behne owned in Brentwood.
“It was a long and grueling day,” Hibler said. “When your best friend dies and you have to pick up the wreckage, it’s tough.”
Hibler added that he himself was among those who helped Behne build the plane in 2008, and Hibler said he had flown it himself many times.
Behne and Strobel were longtime friends and avid pilots, according to Behne’s son, Eric Behne. They also were accomplished engineers.
Strobel was the owner and namesake of L.D. Strobel Co. Inc., of Concord, a wireless and utility construction company that has completed 5,000 projects, including communications towers in Hawaii and San Francisco, since its founding by Strobel in 1987, according the firm’s website.
Strobel’s most recent projects included cell towers built on Treasure Island and atop the parking garage of the South San Francisco BART station.
Strobel owned two single-engine, two-seat aircrafts, a Vans RV-4, which he constructed himself, and Kenneth M. Browne Christen Eagle II, according to FAA registration records.
A person who answered the phone at Strobel’s company declined to comment on the founder’s passing.
Hibler said he did know Strobel well, but that Strobel was part of a group of airplane race fans that included Behne who drove to Nevada to watch Hibler compete in the Reno Air Races.
Behne owned about a dozen aircraft at the Funny Farm airstrip, Hibler said.
Eric Behne said that his father, who started out as a pilot at age 16, piloted the plane the day of the crash.
His father took off from the private Funny Farm airstrip, at 2600 Penny Lane in Brentwood, with Strobel for a short flight for fun, he said.
David Behne had a long career as an aerospace and communications engineer, having worked on engines for the Space Shuttle program at the aerospace firm Rocketdyne and on airborne lasers for Lockheed Martin.
Behne was recently employed at Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto, where he worked on commercial satellites used by television companies.
Eric Behne said his father flew almost every day, including daily commutes from his airstrip in Brentwood to the Palo Alto Airport on his way to work at Space Systems/Loral.
(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)