3 plane crash victims worked for Tesla

February 17, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
All three people on board the plane that crashed into an East Palo Alto neighborhood, were employees of Tesla Motors -- the electric car maker based in San Carlos.

For now, Tesla is not releasing the names of the victims, but others have identified the pilot Doug Bourn. Those who knew him say he will be deeply missed.

"I called him to make sure he was okay," said Tricia Flora.

Flora had a gut feeling the plane crash involved her neighbor and friend Bourn, yet she called him anyway, hoping her intuition was wrong.

"There was no answer, but I pretty much knew," said Flora.

Flora and her mother, Barbara Povio, live across the street from Bourn's home in Santa Clara. They knew his Cessna was based out of Palo Alto and that bourn flew often; in fact, he was an experienced pilot with more than 2,000 hours of flying time. They have been on his plane on a number of occasions.

"He's just so intelligent and good and I just know that nothing could happen. He's just so safe," said Povio.

Which is why this crash is so shocking to those who knew him. Bourn worked as a senior electrical engineer at San Carlos-based Tesla Motors and was instrumental in developing the Telsa roadster's power module.

Two other unidentified Tesla employees were on board the plane.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed Wednesday that all three people onboard Bourn's Cessna were Telsa employees and said, "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families." In a brief statement, Musk wrote "Tesla is a small, tightly-knit company and this is a tragic day for all of us."

"I'm really saddened; he's a great guy," said neighbor John Ruth.

Ruth met bourn about 20 years ago and says, while Bourn's number one passion was flying, he also liked talking about work.

"I wouldn't say necessarily that he was a workaholic, but he was a really good worker and he cared a lot about the projects he was working on," said Ruth.

But friends say Bourn will be remembered for how he treated others. Povio recalls when her car broke down in Yosemite.

"He found a little airport up there and came and brought us home because the car was broken and we were stuck. He would just do anything for anybody," said Povio.

"He helped Barbara across the street. She was going through some medical issues and he would go buy groceries for her," said neighbor John Clinging Smith.

"It is just really sad because he was a blessing; to have him as a neighbor, he was just a wonderful person, he will be missed," said neighbor Karen Davis.

Bourn was also a so-called "angel flyer." That is someone who donates his plane and time transporting patients who have to travel long distances for treatment.