Two Planes Collide Off Long Beach

Search and rescue operation under way in channel off Long Beach

Tuesday, May 19, 2009  |  Updated 8:09 AM PDT
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Planes Collide Five Miles off Long Beach

Image taken Monday afternoon from the KNBC Channel 4 News helicopter of a U.S. Coast Guard rescue helicopter headed out to the channel off Long Beach to search for two planes that were involved in a mid-air collision.

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Planes Collide Five Miles off Long Beach

Two small planes reportedly collided over the ocean nine miles southeast of the Torrance Airport tonight and after more than two hours, the U.S. Coast Guard said two debris fields were located and secured.
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Searchers from three emergency response agencies plied the waters off the Long Beach break wall Tuesday looking for three people believed to have been aboard two small planes that collided in flight.

A pilot reported seeing the collision about 5:45 p.m. Monday.

One aircraft was a Cessna "high wing" single-engine plane occupied by an instructor pilot and a student pilot, and the other was a Cessna "low wing" twin-engine plane, possibly occupied only by the pilot, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Paul Wiedenhoeft told reporters in an early-morning news conference in San Pedro.

Wiedenhoeft said the operation was still in "rescue" mode Tuesday morning because there was a chance that there could be survivors, although no sign of them had been found.

Overnight, debris was found in the water, although searchers suspended the operation for a time because of weather conditions, including fog. The search resumed at daybreak.

On hand were personnel from the U.S. Coast Guard, the Los Angeles City Fire Department and the Long Beach Fire Department.

The Federal Aviation Administration was reviewing radar data to see if two aircraft had come together, and if so, where they originated, said FAA spokesman Ian Gregor.

Gregor told the Press-Telegram that an initial review indicated a single-engine Cessna 172 took off from Long Beach Airport.

Long Beach Fire rescue boat crews located two debris fields around 7 p.m. Monday. One was about 5 nautical miles southwest of the Long Beach break wall, while the second was about 3 miles northeast of the first, said Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Stephanie Young. A security zone was then established around the fields, she said.

Among the debris was a plane's nose wheel and seat cushions, Young told the Press Telegram. Oil was also found with the debris, said Long Beach Fire Capt. Jackawa Jackson.

"There were aircraft parts -- things consistent with two small aircraft," Jackson said.

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