Tahoe City, CA Pilot’s Plane Goes down Off Coast, Search Becomes Recovery Effort

Emily Crofton |
Santa Barbara County Sherrif’s Office now treating the investigation as a missing person case. Photo credit: people

An investigation involving a Cessna 182 Skylane airplane that reportedly crashed off the coast of Santa Barbara is now being treated as a recovery mission after search and rescue efforts were suspended. The lone occupant of the aircraft, 61-year-old Debra Nicholson of Tahoe City, Calif., lost communication with the Santa Barbara Airport Tower on Sunday, September 27th at approximately 7 a.m. After a witness reported seeing a small aircraft descending rapidly towards the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office declared a missing person investigation.

24 hours following the crash, search and rescue teams discontinued their search efforts after discovering plane debris, as well as oil sheen on the water, in the vicinity of the fallen aircraft. The case, now being treated as a recovery effort, has called forth a special diving team from Los Angeles County fully equipped with an Ocean Rescue boat and dive team members. The suspected crash site, located 2 miles off the coast of Campus Point at UC Santa Barbara in Isla Vista, CA, will be thoroughly searched to up to 300 feet deep.

The suspected crash site off the coast of Isla Vista, CA. Photo credit: zoozhawk

A loving mother of two and an active Tahoe City community member, Nicholson was a dear friend and colleague to many that knew her. Just four days before the crash, she had been appointed to serve on the Airport community Advisory Team. The news is considered shocking for many as she was a highly qualified pilot with a colleague commenting, ” she had gone beyond the basics of a pilot’s license. I know she was instrument rated.” In addition to her piloting, Nicholson had also been practicing solo estate law for over 30 years.

Between her family, colleagues, and friends, the Tahoe City community at large mourning this tremendous loss. Our thoughts are with the Nicholson family and all who have been affected by this tragic incident.

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