Passenger in plane crash near Cal Poly confirmed dead

UPDATE 3:30 P.M. SATURDAY: The passenger in the plane crash, 86-year-old Obbie Atkinson, was pronounced dead at 7 p.m. Friday, Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center spokesman Ron Yukelson confirmed.


The pilot and passenger of a single-engine aircraft that went down near Cal Poly on Thursday were longtime friends out for a “really great day of flying,” according to one person familiar with the incident.

The passenger in the 1943 vintage Aeronca model 0-58B, Obbie Atkinson of Paso Robles, remained in critical condition at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center on Friday afternoon, hospital spokesman Ron Yukelson said.

Atkinson was taken there along with the pilot, Jeffrey B. Welles, whose aircraft came to rest in a creek bed on the Tartaglia Ranch about 10 a.m. Thursday.

About 15 minutes earlier, Welles had contacted the radio tower at San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport to alert air traffic controllers to an emergency.

The aircraft is registered to Welles of Newport Beach and is stored at the Estrella Warbird Museum in Paso Robles. Welles could not be reached for comment Friday, nor could any members of Atkinson’s family.

Atkinson and Welles have been friends for nearly 30 years, said Betty Miller, a member of the museum’s board of directors.

“They were out to have a really great day of flying,” she said.

Atkinson, 86, is a longtime member of the museum and was one of its founders in the early 1990s, she said.

A World War II Army Air Corps veteran, Atkinson flew B-29s and has had thousands of hours of airtime, Miller said.

Welles, meanwhile, was released from Sierra Vista on Thursday afternoon. His sister-in-law, Kathleen Welles of Morro Bay, said Jeffrey Welles left town Friday morning and is doing “really well.”

He had some stitches above one of his eyes and arms, but did not break any bones in the crash, she said.

“He looks like he got in a little bar fight or something,” she said.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.