Crews searching for female pilot and small plane seen plunging off Isla Vista coast

Local news

Crews are searching for a pilot and a single-engine plane that was seen plunging into the ocean off the coast of Isla Vista early Sunday morning, officials said.

A witness reported seeing a small aircraft descend at a rapid rate and “impact the ocean” about 2.5 miles away from Santa Barbara Airport after 7 a.m., Santa Barbara County Fire Public Information Officer Mike Eliason said.

The airport at 7:10 a.m. reported losing contact with the aircraft, a Cessna 182 Skylane believed to have had one person, a female pilot, on board, U.S. Coast Guard and airport officials said.

Suspected debris and a sheen from a downed aircraft found about two miles west of Santa Barbara on Sept. 27, 2020. (U.S. Coast Guard)
Suspected debris and sheen from a downed aircraft found about two miles west of Santa Barbara on Sept. 27, 2020. (U.S. Coast Guard)

Rescue teams deployed quickly, with U.S. Coast Guard vessels and rescue helicopters converging on the scene.

About an hour and a half later, crews found debris consistent with the missing aircraft about 2 miles off the coast of Isla Vista, an area with water depths of around 200 feet, Eliason said.

There was also some light oil sheen on the water that smelled like aircraft fuel, he added

Authorities around 10:30 a.m. said efforts were focused on a recovery operation and they requested a dive team with radar equipment from Los Angeles County.

The plane was headed to Lake Tahoe, according to Deanna Zachrisson of Santa Barbara Airport.

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