GRANITE BAY, Calif. - An Idaho-based husband and wife sonar search team that has recovered more than 80 bodies from under water has begun looking for the wreckage of a plane that plunged into Folsom Lake on New Year's Day 1965, killing four people.

Gene and Sandy Ralston launched their boat from the Granite Bay lake access Thursday afternoon, less than a week after their sonar gear located the body of a woman in the Delta who was presumed drowned in a Thanksgiving weekend fishing accident.

But Gene Ralston said despite the lake's clarity, the search would be much more difficult than the one in the muddy Delta.

"Oh gosh, the Delta is a piece of cake," Gene Ralston said."The bottom is flat like a road. [At Folsom Lake], we've got 50- and 60-foot-tall still standing trees on the bottom."

Gene Ralston said they must carefully "fly" their towed sonar device above the trees so the equipment won't become entangled.

The search effort came together following a News10 story in late December about Frank Wilcox, a Shingle Springs man who was hoping the dramatic drop in the level of Folsom Lake would finally reveal the wreckage of the Piper Comanche that went to the bottom following a mid-air collision, killing Wilcox's older brother and three other people. Only one body was recovered.

The other plane returned safely to Sacramento Municipal (now Executive) Airport.

Previous story:Family hopes Folsom Lake drop reveals plane wreckage

Although Folsom Lake covers three counties, witnesses at the time placed the crash over El Dorado County.

El Dorado County Sheriff's Detective Sgt. Dan Johnson made search arrangements with the Ralstons to search the lake based on their success in the Delta.

"We would like to recover the three individuals and give their family the opportunity to lay them to rest properly," Johnson said.

Thursday's search ended at dusk without success, but Gene Ralston said they would continue Friday morning.

As the boat returned to shore, Wilcox said he remained optimistic.

"I've never seen such an outpouring of help and these folks here, this is what they do," he said."I think something good will come of this."

The Ralstons, both in their 60's, generally ask for nothing more than reimbursement for their expenses.

By George Warren,

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