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Officials Call Off Ocean Search for Plane Crash Victims

Aviation: The bodies of two men who were aboard a small craft that went down in Santa Monica Bay are still missing.

March 31, 2001|DAN WEIKEL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

After two days of combing Santa Monica Bay, rescue teams Friday called off the search for possible survivors of the crash of a small plane several miles off Topanga State Beach.

Authorities found a woman's body Thursday morning, but continued to look for two men who were also aboard the single-engine Cessna 172 when it took off from Santa Monica Airport. One of them was the pilot.

The coroner's office identified the woman as Evelyn Cedano, 30, of New York City. Authorities said she and the men were on a one- to two-hour pleasure flight before the crash occurred about 7:05 p.m. Wednesday.

Officials of the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates aircraft accidents, declined to identify the other people on the plane. Their bodies have not been found.

Coast Guard officials said they halted the search about 10:45 a.m. Friday without locating the main wreckage of the aircraft, which entered the water two to three miles offshore.

The four-seat plane took off about 6:50 p.m. Wednesday and headed out over Santa Monica Bay. About 15 minutes later, a surfer, who was taking off his wetsuit on shore, reported to the Sheriff's Department that a small plane had crashed into the sea.

Coast Guard officials said the Cessna belonged to Justice Aviation, which rents aircraft and has a flight school at Santa Monica Airport. Company officials declined to comment Friday.

Participating in the search were two cutters and a helicopter from the Coast Guard as well as county lifeguard vessels and units from the Sheriff's Department. They covered more than 155 square miles of ocean before their efforts were called off.

Wayne Pollack, an NTSB investigator, said the cause of the accident is unknown. He said he asked the Federal Aviation Administration to produce radar data from local aircraft-tracking stations to determine the course of the Cessna before it crashed.

The data will show the maneuvers, speed, direction and altitude of the plane after takeoff. "Right now, this is our best witness to what happened," Pollack said.

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