Husband, Friends of Pilot Speak Out After Midair Collision

After a midair crash between two small planes Friday in San Pedro launched a water search for three, one pilot's husband was speaking out Saturday.

Mary Falstrom of Torrance, 72, was identified by her husband,  Rich Falstrom, as one of the pilots involved in the crash.

"She was very proud of the fact that she was a female pilot because there aren't as many of those around," Rich Falstrom said.

Rich said he was proud of his wife too, and recalled what she said before taking off Friday.

"She more or less said, 'It's too pretty a day -- I have to go flying,'" Rich said.

Rich said his wife was a flight attendant when she was young and and an experienced pilot of more than 25 years.

Rich said she owned a two-seater aerobatic plane that she would fly once or twice a week, usually taking off from and landing at Torrance Airport.

"I'm sure she was just doing her normal routine and apparently didn't see the other plane, and they didn't see her," Rich said.

The Coast Guard called off a large-scale search Saturday morning for two men and Falstrom, but Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials said the search would resume Sunday morning. 

"I'm sad," Jim Gates, a fellow pilot in the flying club to which Falstrom belonged, said.

Gates said he watched Falstrom take off from Torrance Airport before the crash. He said her plane was designed for aerobatics.

A retired United Airlines pilot, Arvid Von Norden-Flycht, said he was looking at the radar trying to track the planes in the moments before the crash.

"It looked like at the last second somebody was turning," Norden-Flycht said.

The two small planes departed from the Torrance airport before the collision occurred. 

A crew of a fishing boat reported that a plane had hit the waters near the Point Fermin Lighthouse Friday, officials said.

Debris and a log book was found Friday after a plane was reported down at 3:14 p.m., said Capt. Jennifer Williams of the U.S. Coast Guard. 

"The rescue operation has transitioned to a recovery operation," according to a statement Saturday from the Coast Guard. The LA County Sheriff's Department plans to conduct diving and sonar searches to located wreckage, according to the statement. 

Two men, ages 61 and 81, were aboard a plane that was seen on radar colliding with another aircraft assumed to be piloted by Falstrom on Friday. Both pilots were experienced, Williams said.

The identities of the two men were not released, but Williams said they were South Bay residents.

Crews were to resume searching Sunday at 6 a.m., according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

"I'm sad, but I'm also glad she died doing what she likes," Gates said.

City News Service contributed to this report.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us