Recovery Ongoing in Fatal San Pedro Plane Crash
Around 3:30 in the afternoon on Friday, February Fifth, radar picked up a mid-air collision between two small planes not far from Cabrillo Beach near the Los Angeles Harbor in San Pedro. The crew of a fishing boat confirmed what the radar saw, visually reporting a plane hitting the water at that time.
It appears that a Beech 35 Bonanza collided with a Citabria or Super Decathlon, both light, single-engine planes. Two men aged 61 and 81 were onboard the Beech, while the other craft was piloted by its sole passenger, a woman aged 72. Both planes flew out of Torrance Municipal Airport.
By Saturday afternoon, the bodies of the two men had been recovered, when the U.S. Coast Guard suspended an active search for survivors and switched to retrieving bodies and wreckage from the crash.
At the time of this writing, the body of the female pilot has yet to be discovered, although parts of her plane have been recovered. She has been identified as Mary Falstrom, 72, of Torrance. Mrs. Falstrom is a former flight attendant as well as a pilot with 25 years of experience, and whom many know as a volunteer at the Western Museum of Flight in the Torrance Municipal Airport. She has been married for 24 years to Rich Falstrom, who was reported as considering that perhaps the pilots just simply didn’t see one another before it was too late to avoid a collision.
Several emergency services responded to the scene, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Emergency Services Detail, which is part of the Special Enforcement Bureau of the Sheriff’s department. The sheriff’s dive time located the remains and wreckage in L.A. County waters with the assistance of L.A. Port Police, the Long Beach Police Department and county lifeguards. A sheriff’s helicopter crew searched from the air while divers searched on and below the ocean surface between Los Angeles and Long Beach.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) are investigating the cause of the accident.
The crash occurred near the historic Angels Gate lighthouse at the San Pedro Breakwater. This is a popular area for recreational flights, and it is not unusual to see three or four small planes in the air all flying in the same general area at the same time. Perhaps not surprisingly then, this is not the first such incident to occur in the area. Fifteen years ago in 2001, a crash of two Cessnas took the lives of four people, and 15 years prior to that, in 1986, two student-piloted planes collided, although in that instance both planes were able to land safely with no injuries to the people on board.
Many factors may be involved in a mid-air collision, and establishing the facts and any potential liability can be a complicated matter. For legal advice and assistance in an aviation accident, contact Magaña, Cathcart & McCarthy at 310-553-6630.