Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux announced the death of pilot James Chavez and Deputy Scott Ballantyne following the Sheriff One crash along Highway 190 near Lake Success just after 4pm on February 10.
“Our hearts go out to the families,” Boudreaux said. “They are part of the sheriff’s office family.”
Deputy Ballantyne was hired as a sheriff’s trainee in August, 1989. He graduated from the Tulare/Kings Counties Police Academy in December, 1989, and was promoted to deputy sheriff at Sequoia Field on December 15, 1989. While working for the sheriff’s office, Ballantyne worked patrol in the Porterville area and the Visalia area, at Bob Wiley Detention Facility, in the Crime Lab and the Visalia Courthouse.
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 and lived in Visalia. He is survived by his mother, brother and sister.
Sheriff’s Pilot Chavez was 45 years old. He was hired by the sheriff’s office in October, 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 Boudreaux.
Chavez was an executive office aircraft maintenance officer Black Hawk pilot for the California Army Reserve National Guard 1106th TASMG Company A. He was also an aviation maintenance Company Commander UH-60 Black Hawk Pilot.
Chavez was in the Navy Reserve as an aircraft maintenance officer department head. His fulltime service was in the Army National Guard from December, 2007 to August, 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 his wife, and two children, ages 10 and 6. They are residents of Hanford.
Sheriff One was a light sport aircraft manufactured by Flight Design out of Connecticut. This two-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 February 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 is investigating the crash.
Funerals are planned for the fallen personnel. The first will be on Saturday, February 20, for Pilot James Chavez in Hanford. The second will be in Visalia on Monday, February 22, for Deputy Scott Ballantyne.
Anyone wishing to donate to the families, may contact the Tulare County Deputy Sheriff’s Benevolent Association.