Officials ID 61-year-old female pilot missing in plane crash off Santa Barbara County coast

California
Santa Barbara County fire officials released this photo of the search for a small plane off the coast of Isla Vista on Sept. 27, 2020.

Santa Barbara County fire officials released this photo of the search for a small plane off the coast of Isla Vista on Sept. 27, 2020.

A woman missing since the plane she was flying crashed off the Santa Barbara County coast has been identified as the Coast Guard called off its search Monday.

Deborah Nicholson, a 61-year-old woman from the Lake Tahoe area, was the sole occupant of the single-engine Cessna 182 Skylane that lost communication with flight control at the Santa Barbara Airport around 7:10 a.m. Sunday, the local Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

The aircraft en route to Lake Tahoe is believed to have crashed into the ocean about 2 miles off Campus Point at UC Santa Barbara in Isla Vista, authorities said.

Rescue crews were sent out, including aerial units and the deployment of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Plane debris was found in the area, and an oil sheen on the water smelled like aircraft fuel. The search for a body was carried out in waters roughly 200 feet deep.

But the Coast Guard suspended its search Monday, handing it over to Santa Barbara County sheriff’s officials, who enlisted the help of sheriff’s dive crews from Los Angeles County.

The Sheriff’s Office said it’s now handling the case as a missing person investigation.

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