Search suspended after apparent mid-air plane crash off California

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 06, 2016 11:18 AM

(Reuters) - Emergency teams suspended a search off the California coast on Saturday for at least two people missing after an apparent mid-air collision between two small planes, one of which was seen plunging into the sea.

Air traffic controllers reported seeing on radar a Beechcraft airplane and another single-engine aircraft collide near the Port of Los Angeles at about 3 p.m. local time on Friday, U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Andrea Anderson said.

The only known eyewitness, a fisherman, said he saw the Beechcraft plummet into the water but did not see a second plane. Officials have not confirmed that the second aircraft went down, but it appeared to be missing.

"All we can confirm is that the aircraft has not been made contact with," Anderson said.

After 24 hours and no sign of the missing persons, rescue crews suspended their search by mid-afternoon on Friday, the Coast Guard said in a statement. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department will act as the lead agency in recovery efforts.

Two men, aged 61 and 81, are believed to have been flying the Beechcraft and have not been found, she added. Wreckage from the plane was found.

It was not immediately clear who was aboard the second plane. The sheriff's department will work to determine the whereabouts of that aircraft.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what might have caused the incident.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Helen Popper)