Search for pilot continues after plane debris found in waters off Isla Vista

Divers and other rescue personnel were searching for a missing pilot in the waters off Isla Vista on Sunday after witnesses reported her single-engine plane suddenly losing altitude after taking off from Santa Barbara Airport, authorities said.

Mike Eliason, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, said the Cessna was believed to be occupied only by the woman piloting it. He said it took off from Santa Barbara shortly after 7 a.m. and was bound for Lake Tahoe.

Eliason said some witnesses reported seeing the plane lose altitude, while others reported seeing a large splash about two miles offshore.

Emergency responders from the county and from the U.S. Coast Guard scrambled to respond, and about 90 minutes later found a sheen on the water that smelled like aviation fuel and then “debris that was consistent with the markings and the color scheme” of the Cessna.

The dive team of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department was called in to assist in the search. The water at is from 180 to 250 feet deep, Eliason said.

“It’s a terrible tragedy that this happened,” he said.

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