Coast Guard officials confirmed to the Los Angeles Times on Saturday afternoon that it had suspended its search for the two men aboard a small private plane that plunged into the Pacific Ocean on Friday afternoon. Initially, there were reports that the crash, which occurred just off the coast of San Pedro, Calif., involved a midair collision between two small planes, but investigators said they no longer believe a second plane was necessarily involved.
Andrea Anderson, a Petty Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, told the LA Times that after inspecting the plane’s wreckage, they "came to the conclusion there was no sign of visible life." She added, “The Coast Guard is no longer working an active search.”
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department had initially dispatched divers equipped with sonar to locate the passengers, who are believed to be two elderly men. The Coast Guard aided in the search with two 87-foot cutters, according to Fox News.
On Friday, Federal Aviation Administration officials held a press conference, where officials said they remained hopeful to find survivors. "We don't want to give up on anybody that potentially is out there," the FAA’s Capt. Jennifer Williams said at the news conference, according to CNN. "It's cold water, but it is possible to survive in those temperatures."
— Christine Miceli (@miceliKTLA) February 6, 2016
On Friday, reports had circulated that the FAA was investigating whether or not a midair collision was the cause behind the crash. The FAA said that their radar showed two planes fly near each other, then disappear, moments before the crash. According to Anderson, however, only one plane’s wreckage was found at the site.
“That led us to the conclusion that the other [plane] may have been missing,” Anderson told the LA Times. "And we did not make contact with them. We still have not made contact with them .… That then led us to believe that there was only one aircraft involved in this incident. However, we still don’t know.”
The plane found in the wreckage was a Beechcraft 35 Bonanza, while the other missing aircraft was a Citabria, an aerobatic stunt plane, according to local news outlet KTLA.
Some reports have suggested that the plane may have been operated by a student pilot, because the area in which the crash took place--near a historic California lighthouse--is popular spot among novice pilots learning to fly with instructors.
Richard Garnett, a flight instructor with the Long Beach Flying Club, told Fox News that there are typically three or four planes circling that area at any given time. "So with the amount of activity, actually, I think we've been fortunate," Garnett told Fox. "We are really diligent. I don't know why, what happened in this situation."