Lefton's 67-year-old wife, Karen, was taken to the hospital with moderate injuries.
"Several witnesses at the airport saw it take off and start banking and losing altitude," a rep for the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office said of the 1963 Mooney M20C's take off from Lake Tahoe airport. "It had difficulty getting lift."
“The wife is real lucky,” the rep added.
According to the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a nurse walking her dog near the site of the crash was able to provide immediate onsite assistance.
The Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash.