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Woman’s body, wreckage found in ocean near site of plane crash in Half Moon Bay

A fire truck and vehicle at night, lit by a streetlamp, possibly at an emergency scene.
A screen grab from ABC7 shows emergency personnel responding to Moss Beach after reports that a plane went down on Sunday night. | Source: Courtesy ABC7 San Francisco

Search crews found the wreckage of a small plane that crashed into the Pacific Ocean off the coast south of San Francisco after witnesses reported it flying erratically, authorities said Monday.

A commercial fishing boat spotted a woman's body in the water Monday morning, the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office said. The body was taken to the county coroner's office, and her identity was still being determined.

The crash was reported shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday by a 911 caller who said the plane was in obvious distress and appeared to go down toward the water near Half Moon Bay, said Sgt. Philip Hallworth with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

The U.S. Coast Guard sent out a diver, and the sheriff's office deployed a drone to search for survivors. Around 8:30 p.m., the drone's video feed showed a small plane upside down near Ross Cove, about 25 miles south of San Francisco, Hallworth said.

There was no immediate information about the number of people on board, possible survivors or the type of aircraft involved in the crash.

Melissa Richter was dining on a patio at Moss Beach Distillery when she said she heard an engine losing power, "like you hear in the movies, when a plane is about to crash."

The plane came over the top of the building, she said.

"We figured something was wrong, because it was so close to the restaurant," Richter told KRON-TV. She said the engine cut out, and the plane "banked in, and we lost sight of it at that point."

As of late Monday morning, the tide had pushed part of the wreckage onto the shore near the cove, Hallworth told the Associated Press.

"We've been able to recover a good deal of it," Hallworth said. "What we think is the fuselage we physically cannot bring up, so that's actually still on the beach."

The tide had become dangerous and forced the sheriff's office to call off its search and rescue operations near the cove, he said.

The plane originated from the East Bay, Hallworth said, but he declined to name the exact airport it took off from.

The National Transportation Safety Board has been notified of the crash.