UPDATE: Two killed in small plane crash at Medford car dealership

MEDFORD, Ore. – Two people died after a small plane crashed into a Medford car dealership’s parking lot.

On December 5, 2021, at about 4:52 p.m., several Medford Police officers and rescue personnel responded to a plane crash in the parking lot adjacent to Airport Chevrolet on Biddle Road.

According to police, initial information indicated one person was on board the plane when it crashed and they did not survive. In a later update, officers confirmed two people were killed, the pilot and a passenger. The pilot has been identified by Medford Police as 69 year old Donald Harbert Sefton of Fallon, Nevada. MPD says the passenger is 67 year old Valorie Jean Serpa, also of Fallon, Nevada. Next of kin have been notified.

It is not believed anyone on the ground was injured.

Peter Knudson, a spokesperson with the National Transportation Safety Board, says it can take up to 12 – 24 months for the investigation to finish.

“The way we approach an investigation is looking at 3 broad areas: the pilot, the airplane and the operating environment,” he said.

Knudson says it’s too early in the investigation to determine an exact cause.

“We’re talking about looking at the licenses, ratings, flight experience. There’s going to be an examination of the maintenance records on that airplane, an examination of all that wreckage to determine if there was a mechanical failure of some sort.”

Airport Chevrolet said while their building was damaged, no staff members were hurt. “Our condolences go out to the family and friends of the pilot,” the dealership said.

The plane involved is reported to be an 8-passenger, twin propeller-driven Piper PA-31 Navajo.

The FAA stated the plane crashed during takeoff under “unknown circumstances.”

According to data from FlightAware, the plane departed from the runway southbound at 4:50 p.m. before climbing to about 1,500 feet. After turning to the southwest, the plane’s altitude started to lower as it turned north before a significant drop of over 1,000 feet in less than 20 seconds.

The City of Medford said the FAA and National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the scene Monday afternoon.

Local investigators will be working closely with the FAA and NTSB.

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Madison LaBerge
Madison LaBerge is the anchor of NBC5 News Weekends at 6 and 11. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Madison is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She loves living in the Pacific Northwest. She can't get over "how green everything is!" When Madison is not at work, she looks for new and exciting cooking recipes and explores Southern Oregon. Feel free to send her story ideas or the address of your favorite Mexican food restaurant!