Authorities in California have suspended search and rescue efforts for a missing woman last seen piloting a small plane that witnesses said crashed into the Pacific Ocean.
The Coast Guard on Monday turned the hunt for Deborah Nicholson, 61, over to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office as a missing person investigation, the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
The sheriff’s office said that a special diving team from Los Angeles County arrived on the scene Monday equipped with an Ocean Rescue boat and dive team members able to dive as deep as 300 feet.
Nicholson was the lone occupant of a Cessna 182 Skylane that reportedly crashed about two miles off the coast of Campus Point at UC Santa Barbara in Isla Vista, the statement said.
The sheriff’s dispatch was notified just after 7 a.m. on Sunday that the plane had lost communication with the Santa Barbara Airport tower.
A witness reported seeing a small aircraft quickly descending and hitting the ocean several miles from the airport, CW affiliate KTLA reported.
Plane debris was also found in the area, as was an oil sheen on the water that smelled like aircraft fuel, the outlet reported.
Nicholson, who is from the Lake Tahoe area, was recently appointed to serve on the Airport Community Advisory Team, the Tahoe Daily Tribune reported.
The newspaper, which spelled her first name Debra, reported that she has been practicing solo estate law in Tahoe City for more than 30 years, and has two sons, the youngest of whom recently started college.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it would investigate the crash.
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