Emergency officials have located a missing Cessna that collided with another aircraft over San Pablo Bay. Both planes in the accident departed Sunday afternoon from the Pacific Coast Dream Machines event at the Half Moon Bay Airport.
The Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office announced Monday afternoon that the plane crashed about one mile off the coastline of Richmond, landing in a relatively shallow area of water about 13 feet deep. Sheriff's officials say they have recovered pieces of wreckage and other items, and they are working to salvage the rest of the plane.
Little detail has been provided on the Cessna pilot, who officials so far have declined to identify. The pilot was "presumed fatally injured", according to an incident summary by Federal Aviation Administration officials.
The other airplane involved in the collision, a Hawker Sea Fury TMK 20, landed safely later Sunday afternoon, according to an Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.
The crash occurred at 4:05 p.m., according to FAA spokesman Ian Gregor. He said the Hawker landed 40 minutes later at a small airport in Amador County. The occupants of that plane were not injured, Gregor said.
The Coast Guard and other rescue crews were searching for the pilot of a Cessna 210 in San Pablo Bay, but they only found wreckage from an airplane. Crews searched through the night, but they reportedly found no further signs of the plane. A Coast Guard cutter and helicopter continued the search on Monday.
"My understanding is that the Hawker had a chase plane with him," said Tim Beeman, director of Miramar Events, which put on Dream Machines. "Chase planes typically follow to take photographs." Beeman said he didn't know who was piloting either plane. The Hawker was a registered feature of Sunday's event, but there was no immediate information on the Cessna.
More than 150 unique aircraft were featured at the Sunday aeronautics event, but an unknown number of other "fly-in" planes also landed at the airport for the festivities, Beeman said.
"Dream Machines has an incredibly safe track record over the years. We've had minimal incidents," he said. "No one know what the pilots were doing. Until that's found out, it remains a horribly tragic accident."
After the Sunday crash, local airport officials shut down the fuel pumps and took a sample in case it was needed in the investigation. The Hawker had reportedly refueled while parked at the airport. Later that evening, federal officials announced they didn't believe fuel played a factor in the crash, and the pumps were allowed to reopen.
The FAA reported the Hawker’s tail number was registered to an airplane with Sanders Aircraft Inc. A Sanders employee declined to comment on Monday morning about the incident. Gregor did not have any information about the Cessna.
There are no strict rules for the distance chase planes need to keep while flying in formation, said local aerobatics pilot Eddie Andreini. Two planes flying together can sometimes be safer because both pilots are watching each other in case something goes awry, he said.
"Normally, two pilots who know each other like they did, don't have any problems," he said. "It's kind of puzzling how those two planes made contact."
The National Transportation Safety Board is taking the lead on the investigation.