Tulare man pleads no contest to setting 2006 arson that killed firefighter, pilot
The man accused of setting a series of 2006 fires in Mountain Home State Park during which a firefighter and pilot were killed in a plane crash pleaded no contest today to setting those fires after prosecutors dropped murder charges.
Patrick Courtney, 31, of Tulare would have faced life in prison if convicted on the two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Rob Stone of Exeter and George “Sandy” Willett of Hanford, a contract pilot for CAL FIRE.
Instead, under a plea agreement, Courtney pleaded no contest to four counts of causing wildland fires for which he’d also been charged. One of those counts includes an admission of special allegations for a firefighter suffering great bodily injury and another of causing great bodily injury to more than one person.
The morning of Sept. 6, Stone and Willett were aboard a Air Attack 410, a OV-10A turboprop plane, from which Stone was directing fire crews on the ground in mopping up one of the fires when the plane crashed in the canyon about 22 miles northeast of Porterville.
Tim Ward, a supervising attorney with the Tulare Count District Attorney's Office, said a plea agreement was reached with the blessing of CAL FIRE and Forest Service officials as well as the families of the two men killed.Source: Times-Delta - Link