The wreckage of a small plane that crashed into the ocean off Goleta was recovered Thursday, along with the remains of the Lake Tahoe-area woman who was piloting the aircraft.
The single-engine Cessna 182 plunged into the sea offshore from UCSB’s Campus Point just after 7 a.m. Sunday, shortly after the aircraft departed from the Santa Barbara Airport en route to Truckee in the Lake Tahoe area.
The plane’s location under water was determined with the assistance of the Los Angeles Harbor Police, using specialized equipment and underwater vehicles, according to Raquel Zick, a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.
A vessel from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Enforcement Bureau’s dive program raised what was left of the blue-and-white-plane 180 to 200 feet from the ocean floor Thursday afternoon, Zick said.
A National Park Service ship then showly ferried the wreckage at about 5:45 p.m. to the nearby Goleta Pier, where it was hoisted from the water and loaded onto a flatbed trailer, an operation that was continuing as darkness fell.
The wreckage will be turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash, Zick said.
The body of pilot Debra Nicholson, 61, was taken by boat to Channel Islands Harbor in Ventura, Zick said, adding that the Santa Barbara County Coroner’s Bureau will conduct an investigation into the death.
The plane took off Sunday from one of the Santa Barbara Airport’s two parallel north-south runways.
According to flight-tracking data, the aircraft appeared to reach an altitude of about 1,600 feet before dropping into the ocean.
During the recovery, the Coast Guard established a 1-mile perimeter around the search site to protect the divers in the water and prevent interference with the operation.
Nicholson was an attorney who had been practicing solo estate law in Tahoe City for more than 30 years, according to the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
She was described as an active community member, and had just been appointed to the Airport Community Advisory Team at Truckee Tahoe Airport, where the plane was based.
She was an experienced pilot, and reportedly was instrument rated.
Authorities have not yet given any indication of what might have caused the plane to crash.