A pilot was found dead after a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department helicopter on Tuesday, June 18 discovered the wreckage of a helicopter that had crashed on the west side of Catalina Island.
Smoldering debris was found just before 10 a.m. Tuesday north of the Isthmus on a hillside, said Sky Cornell, a Los Angeles County Fire Department inspector.
Sgt. Craig Harman of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Avalon Station confirmed the aircraft as a helicopter.
The pilot, who was not identified, was known to take recreational flights from Torrance to Catalina Island, which he would fly over before returning, Harman said.
He would not always land on the island, Harman added.
The Sheriff’s Department received a call from the Air Force Coordination Rescue Center after the pilot reportedly hadn’t returned for 16 hours, Harman said.
A search and rescue was initiated and authorities started by searching the last coordinates the helicopter was known to be, Harman said.
“They found the wreckage there,” he said. “We did have precise longitude and latitude.”
The Federal Aviation Administration was notified of a missing Robinson R44 helicopter traveling from Torrance to Catalina Monday afternoon, Spokesman Allen Kenitzer said. He said the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board planned to investigate the cause of the crash.
The smoldering fire was contained to the wreckage and had not spread to brush, Cornell said. There was no threat to structures.
Sheriff’s Department personnel were on scene to investigate the cause of the crash, Harman said
The U.S. Coast Guard assisted in searching for the missing aircraft.
The aircraft owner was not affiliated with Robinson Helicopter Company, spokeswoman Loretta Conley said. The company is based at the Torrance Municipal Airport.
“We are devastated by the loss of life and anyone involved,” the company said in a statement. “Our thoughts and heartfelt sympathies go out to the families and friends of the individual affected by this tragic accident.”
An accident investigator with the company was assisting the FAA and NTSB in their investigation, the company said.
“As always, our first concern and priority is the safety and welfare of the people involved with our aircraft,” the statement said.