HALF MOON BAY, Calif. (AP) — A woman's body was found in the water near where a single-engine plane crashed into the ocean off the California coast after witnesses reported it flying erratically, authorities said Monday.
The crash was reported shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday by a 911 caller who said the plane was in obvious distress and appeared to go down toward the water near Half Moon Bay, said Sgt. Philip Hallworth with the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.
The Federal Aviation Administration said two people were aboard the Cozy Mark IV, a four-seat light aircraft that can be built from a kit. No information was immediately available about the plane's occupants.
The U.S. Coast Guard sent out a diver and the sheriff’s office deployed a drone to search for the downed plane. At around 8:30 p.m. the drone's video feed showed a small plane upside down near Ross Cove, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of San Francisco, Hallworth said.
Melissa Richter was dining on a patio at Moss Beach Distillery when she said she heard an engine losing power, “like you hear in the movies, when a plane is about to crash.”
The plane came over the top of the building, she said.
“We figured something was wrong, because it was so close to the restaurant," Richter told KRON-TV. She said the engine cut out, and the plane “banked in, and we lost sight of it at that point.”
The Coast Guard said a helicopter and boat crew looked in a 28-square mile (73-square-kilometer) area for nearly 6 hours before calling off the search around mid-morning Monday.
Hours later, a woman's body was spotted floating in the water by the crew of a commercial fishing boat, the sheriff's office said in a statement. The San Mateo County Coroner’s Office will try to identify the woman, “but it is thought she is likely associated with the plane crash given she was located in the same location,” the statement said.
As of late morning, the tide had pushed part of the wreckage onto the shore near the cove, Hallworth told The Associated Press.
“We’ve been able to recover a good deal of it,” Hallworth said. “What we think is the fuselage we physically cannot bring up, so that’s actually still on the beach.”
The plane originated from the East Bay, Hallworth said, but he declined to name the exact airport it took off from.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate.