MURTAUGH, Idaho -- The FAA and NTSB continue to investigate a fatal airplane crash that happened in a remote canyon about 38 miles southeast of Twin Falls Monday at approximately 9 p.m.
Friends say the pilot killed in the crash was 81-year-old Joe Tugaw, a well-known cattle rancher from the Twin Falls area.
FAA Spokesman Allen Kenitzer said that preliminary reports indicate that one person was on board the aircraft when it crashed, and that "the aircraft was destroyed."
Cassia County Sheriff Randy Kidd reported that sheriff's deputies, along with a search and rescue crew, and an air ambulance responded to the crash site, which he described as "18 miles up Dry Creek Canyon."
Kidd identified the pilot as 81-year-old Joseph E. Tugaw from Twin Falls. Cassia County Coroner Craig Rhinehart later confirmed the pilot had died.
Friends say Tugaw was well-known rancher and former leader of the Idaho Cattlemen's Association.
AN 'EXCEPTIONAL LEADER'
ICA Executive Vice President Wyatt Prescott described Tugaw as "an exceptional leader for the state's cattle industry."
Prescott said Tugaw served as president of the Idaho Cattlemen's Association in 1996, and was named the Cattleman of the Year in 1999.
Fellow cattleman Cevin Jones said he befriended Tugaw at least 20 years ago. Jones owns Intermountain Beef in nearby Eden, Idaho.
Jones guessed that Tugaw likely crashed as he flew into the Dry Creek area to inspect the damage done to his ranch from recent wildfires. "That's his ranch area," Jones said. "I heard he was out a couple hundred cows, so I imagine he was up there trying to find the cows."
Tugaw's plane was described as a single engine, I.C.P. Savannah A.D.V. fixed-wing . The company's website says the ultra light aircraft was manufactured "to make extremely short landings and have high cruising speed."
Jones said to his knowledge, Tugaw had recently purchased the plane as little as two weeks ago to replace an aging Cessna aircraft he'd previously owned.
"I know Joe was a very proficient pilot, and that he'd been flying for as long as I can remember," Jones said.
Jones added "I know Joe -- he was doing what he loved."