A California company that manufactures robotic survey vessels located the wreckage in Folsom Lake while testing out equipment.
The discovery sparked headlines that the wrecked plane could potentially be an aircraft that went missing in 1965.
The Piper Comanche 250 had crashed into Folsom Lake on New Year’s Day following a mid-air collision, according to local broadcasting station KOVR.
The pilot’s body was recovered, but authorities were not able to locate the plane or the three passengers who were onboard the aircraft for decades.
Workers at Seafloor Systems believed they had finally located the plane while testing underwater surveying equipment, CNN reported.
The team had reportedly suspected that there might be something at the bottom of Folsom Lake after analysing data collected while testing a small surveying boat.
Their suspicions were confirmed when sonar imaging of the area revealed the outline of a plane, covered in a heavy layer of silt, around 160 feet below the water’s surface.
The company believes its surveying system was able to detect the wreckage as the lake’s water levels were particularly low due to extreme drought conditions affecting much of the Western US.
The team was later able to use a sonar unit mounted to a remote controlled mini sub to get a clear picture of the wreckage, with Seafloor Systems environmental technician Jeff Riley telling CNN the plane was “as clear as day”.
“I did a little pan around just to see my surroundings, and in that initial pan I was able to see it,” he said.
The team was able to capture images of the tail section of the plane, as well as of the propeller and said their features appeared to match those of the plane that crashed in 1965.
A California States Park official told The Independent that the plane had already been located in renewed efforts to find it starting in 2014.
However, they said the plane was still under more than 80 feet of water and entangled in trees at the bottom of the lake at the time, so officials decided it was “not safe to dive on”.
Now, with drought conditions having lowered water levels, it is unclear whether a recovery effort could be launched.
Riley said his team marked the GPS coordinates of the wreckage to help with recovery effort.