Sheriff Mike Boudreaux announced the death of Sheriff’s pilot James Chavez and Deputy Scott Ballantyne. They were killed Feb. 10, 2016 when Sheriff One crashed along Highway 190 near Lake Success just after 4 p.m.
“Our hearts go out to the families,” Sheriff Boudreaux said. “They are also part of the Sheriff’s Office family.”
Deputy Scott Ballantyne was hired as a Sheriff’s trainee on August 14, 1989 and he graduated from the Tulare/Kings Counties Police Academy in December 1989. He was promoted to Deputy Sheriff at Sequoia Field on Dec. 15, 1989.
While working for the Sheriff’s Office, he worked in patrol in the Porterville area and the Visalia area, at Bob Wiley Detention Facility, in the Crime Lab and the Visalia Court.
In 2014, he became a Deputy Observer for Sheriff One. Using high-tech equipment, he was able to guide deputies on the ground in the pursuit of suspects.
Deputy Scott Ballantyne was 52 years old. He is survived by his mother and sister. He lived in Visalia.
Sheriff’s Pilot James Julio Chavez was 45 years old. He was hired by the Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 24, 2014 to fly Sheriff One. He was hired due to his extensive aviation experience and exceptional piloting skills.
Prior to being hired, he volunteered as a pilot for the Sheriff’s Office for more than a year.
He loved to fly, said Sheriff Mike Boudreaux.
Chavez was Executive Office Aircraft Maintenance Officer Black Hawk pilot for California Army Reserve National Guard 1106th TASMG Company A. He was also an aviation maintenance Company Commander UH-60 Black Hawk Pilot.
He was also in the Navy Reserve as an Aircraft Maintenance Officer Dept. Head. His full time service was in the Army National Guard from 12/ 2007- 8/ 2013.
He also served as commander of the Tulare County Sheriff’s Aerosquadron, a group of volunteer pilots and observers who assist with Search and Rescue and other tasks requiring aircraft.
He is survived by a wife, and two children, ages 8 and 4. They are residents of Hanford.
Sheriff One was a light sport aircraft manufactured by Flight Design out of Connecticut. This 2-seater was chosen by the Sheriff’s Office because of its reliability, history of performance, safety features and low-cost to operate. It was delivered to the Sheriff’s Office in August 2011 and, since then, logged more than 3,000 hours of flight time in Tulare County.
It was the department’s “Eyes in the Sky,” helping deputies on the ground to locate criminals. Sheriff One crashed Feb. 10 just after completing a mission where a suspect who had brandished a weapon was apprehended by deputies on the ground.
Prior to the crash, there was no distress signal from the plane and its parachute was not deployed. The FAA will be investigating the crash.
The two men were assisting with the arrest of a man in Central California who had brandished a weapon when the plane crashed. A distress call was not sent out and the parachutes the plane was outfitted with didn’t deploy. The man was arrested and the plane was leaving the call when it crashed into the side of a mountain ridge.
The Incident occurred on February 10, 2016 at approximately 4:15 P.M. near Lake Success.