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NTSB releases preliminary report of fatal plane crash near Santa Barbara

Airplane crash pulled ashore
Scott Sheahen / KEYT

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The National Transportation Safety Board released its preliminary report of September's fatal plane crash into the water near Isla Vista.

The crash happened Sept. 27 at around 7 a.m. A Cessna plane flown by 61-year-old Deborah Nicholson from the Lake Tahoe area went down about 10 minutes after taking off from the Santa Barbara Airport.

The NTSB said Nicholson was traveling to the Truckee-Tahoe Airport in Truckee. The plane took off from Santa Barbara Airport and she made contact with the Los Angeles Center air traffic control and began climbing to 8,000 feet above the ground.

The plane turned north and then turned east and began rapidly descending, the NTSB said. That's when radio contact was lost with the pilot. No mayday calls were received by air traffic control, according to the report.

The plane went down in the Pacific Ocean about two miles off Campus Point in Isla Vista.

The crash led to days of searching by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office with assistance from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's dive team.

The wreckage was located about 200 feet below the surface and was recovered several days later.

What caused the plane to rapidly descend and crash into the ocean remains under investigation. The NTSB said the weather was overcast at the time of the crash but cloud conditions were considered to be clear.

The NTSB will continue to investigate and a full report will be released once the investigation is completed. NTSB investigations can often take months to years to complete.

To read the NTSB's preliminary report in its entirety, click here.

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County

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