BYRON -- Two Brentwood men who loved tinkering on planes and flying them have been identified as the victims in a fatal plane crash Tuesday afternoon near Byron.
Using dental records, the Contra Costa County Coroner's office confirmed the men were David S. Behne, 57, and Larry Strobel, 56. Behne was piloting the home built plane when it crashed, said Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jimmy Lee.
A witness said he heard the plane buzzing overhead before it fell into a corkscrew dive and crashed in a farm field shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday near Marsh Creek Road and Bryon Highway. What went wrong may not be known for months.
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 Airport, which Behne owned in Brentwood. It is about four miles north of the crash site.
"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."
No one else was injured in the crash.
Behne and Strobel were longtime friends and avid pilots, said Behne's 23-year-old son, Eric Behne. They also were accomplished engineers, he said.
On Friday, Behne's ex-wife, Shelley Rose, said Behne, who she called an adventurer who also enjoyed scuba diving, will be missed by scores of friends and family.
"He was energetic, always
Behne, who flew daily, was a mechanical engineer who most recently had worked on commercial satellites used by television companies while contracting at Space Systems/Loral in Palo Alto.
Strobel was the owner of L.D. Strobel Co. Inc. in 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.
When the single-engine Glasair III crashed, it burned so badly that it took officials about five hours to discover that there were actually two bodies on board, not one as previously announced.
The National Transportation Safety Board is handling the investigation, with the help of the Federal Aviation Administration. A basic preliminary report may be released within a week, possible two, but it may take months for the NTSB to determine the likely cause for the crash.
Weather conditions in the area around the time of the crash were fair, with partly cloudy skies and light winds, according to the National Weather Service.
The Glasair III is a 21-foot two-seater, with a top speed of 327 mph and a 23-foot standard wingspan. It is sold in four "kits" that users assemble at home; the total price of the kits ranges from $60,711 to $65,735, according to the Glasair website. Users can also purchase a prebuilt wing or fuselage.
Behne is also survived by his father Joe Behne, of Las Vegas, his sister Julie Korhummell, of Livermore; and his brother Daniel Behne, of Livermore. Survivors of Strobel were not immediately available Friday.
Funeral services are pending.