By Blake DeVine
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Santa Barbara County Fire received reports that a plane was seen going down into the ocean near Goleta Beach Park Sunday morning.
The call came in around 7:09 a.m. saying a small aircraft had lost altitude rapidly after taking off from the Santa Barbara Airport and was last seen descending toward the ocean about 2.5 miles off the beach.
Deanna Zachrisson with the Santa Barbara Airport said the plane was a Cessna 182 that took off from the airport’s parallel runways at 7 a.m. The plane was reportedly headed for the Lake Tahoe area near Truckee, Calif.
According to Zachrisson, the plane was only occupied by a single female pilot who was not a resident of Santa Barbara. The airport lost contact with the plane when it reached 6,000 feet after takeoff. That’s when they started receiving reports of an aircraft down off the coast.
County Fire said no one actually saw the plane hit the water.
Santa Barbara Airport Radar Control contacted the Coast Guard Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach saying they had visual of the aircraft on their radar when they saw it go down off the Santa Barbara coast.
The Coast Guard then launched a Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco Forward Operating Base Point Mugu MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew, the Coast Guard Cutter Blacktip and a Coast Guard Station Channel Islands 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew. A County Air Support copter, water rescue teams and Harbor Patrol crews also aided in the search.
By 9 a.m., crews located a debris field that matched the description of the plane and some personal items about two miles off the coast of Isla Vista.
County Fire said the objects are located about 200 feet underwater. Crews are waiting for the LA Sheriff’s dive team to respond to the scene with proper equipment to retrieve the items and any potential victims.
The Coast Guard said the dive team should arrive Monday morning to continue the search.
This investigation is under the jurisdiction of the Coast Guard, National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.