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UPDATE: Plane Wreckage Recovered in Search for Missing Pilot

Pilot Positively Identified

Santa Barbara, Calif. – The plane that crashed off the coast of Campus Point on Sunday has been lifted from the ocean floor, along with the pilot who was the solo passenger. This recovery was a collaborative effort that started on Monday and involved the Sheriff’s Office Dive Team as well as multiple allied agencies including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Port Police, U.S. Coast Guard, National Park Service, Santa Barbara County Fire, and AMR.

The Los Angeles Port Police played a critical role in locating the plane 180 feet below the surface with the use of their side-scan sonar and ROV. Due to the complexity of the search and size of effort, the Sheriff’s Office requested assistance from Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department SEB Dive Team who specialize in deep water salvage operations. Once the wreckage was pulled to the surface it was transported to the Goleta pier by the National Park Service Ocean Ranger.

Late yesterday, the Coroner’s Bureau used ANDE Rapid DNA to confirm the identity of the deceased pilot as 61-year-old Deborah Nicholson from the Lake Tahoe area. The Coroner’s investigation is expected to be finalized in approximately 6 weeks.


Santa Barbara, Calif. –  At 7:09 a.m. on Sunday, September 27, 2020, Sheriff’s dispatch was notified of a plane that lost communications with the Santa Barbara Airport tower. Deputies responded to the area of Goleta Beach along with County Fire, County Air Support, and the Coast Guard to assist with search efforts for the plane that was reported to have crashed into the ocean, approximately two miles off of Campus Point.

Today, the Coast Guard suspended their search and rescue efforts and transitioned command to the Sheriff’s Office for a missing person investigation.  The Sheriff’s Office has requested assistance from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Enforcement Bureau’s Dive program (SEB Dive) due to the depth of the location and equipment required for this operation. SEB Dive arrived at the scene today with their Ocean Rescue boat and members of the SEB Dive team that are capable of dives to depths of 300 feet sea water. Divers will be searching for a Cesna 182 Skylane and its solo occupant, 61-year-old Deborah Nicholson from the Lake Tahoe area.

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