Man Says Wife Is Among 3 People Believed to Be Missing After Midair Crash Off L.A. Harbor

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As the Coast Guard suspended active search efforts for three people believed to be involved in an apparent midair collision off San Pedro, a man told KTLA on Saturday that he feared his wife was among those missing.

Rich Falstrom provided this picture of his wife, Mary Falstrom, left, after she disappeared while flying in the San Pedro area on Feb. 5, 2016.
Rich Falstrom provided this picture of his wife, Mary Falstrom, left, after she disappeared while flying in the San Pedro area on Feb. 5, 2016.

Two aircraft, one of them an aerobatic stunt plane, were suspected of crashing into the water on Friday, the Coast Guard said at the time.

Two men and one woman were believed to be on board the two planes from South Bay, Capt. Jennifer Williams with the Coast Guard said. The men were ages 61 and 81, and the woman was 72.

Pilot Mary Falstrom’s husband learned of the crash while watching the news, he told KTLA Saturday.

“My heart dropped because she wasn’t back yet, so I had a bad feeling,” Rich Falstrom said, choking back tears. “Mary loved flying. That was her passion.”

Mary Falstrom was a long-time flyer who volunteered at the Western Museum of Flight and was a member of The Ninety-Nines, Inc. — International Organization of Women Pilots, he said.

An active search effort was suspended around 9:15 a.m. Saturday when no debris or remains had been found. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department then took the lead in the search.

The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday that the crash may have only involved one plane, but the Sheriff’s Department said two aircraft were still suspected of being involved, “though this cannot be confirmed until wreckage is located.”

Two planes were believed to have been involved because two separate tail identification numbers from two separate aircraft were recovered by Federal Aviation Association officials following the crash, the Coast Guard said Friday.

“We are speculating to some degree that there are two aircraft. It would be unusual for one just to go down with that amount of debris field,” Williams added.

The planes involved were a Beechcraft 35 Bonanza and a Citabria, described as an aerobatic stunt plane.

Both aircraft were based out of the Torrance Airport, Williams said.

A log book found indicated two people were on board one of the aircraft, and a partial number was located on a FAA radar on the other plane and used to identify an overdue aircraft from Torrance with the 72-year-old female pilot on board.

It was not known if either pilot was performing a stunt at the time of the crash, which the Coast Guard said occurred in a high volume practice area outside their gates with its own radio frequency for communication.

“They are not required to speak to each other, but it is common practice,” said Jonathan McCormick with the Coast Guard.

Following a surface-area search, the Sheriff’s Department’s Special Enforcement Detail were primarily doing underwater searches Saturday.

Sonar devices, remotely operated underwater vehicles and divers were utilized, according to the Sheriff’s Department.

Anyone with information about the incident was asked to contact the detail unit at 323-881-7800.

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