Rescue operation turns to recovery after planes collide mid-air near San Pedro

- The U.S. Coast Guard suspended the search Saturday for three people missing after an apparent mid-air collision of two small planes over the ocean near San Pedro.

The Coast Guard had two 87-foot patrol boats, Cutters Narwahl and Blackfin, conducting a search throughout the night. The search effort was suspended at 9:15 a.m.

"The rescue operation has transitioned to a recovery operation with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department as the lead agency," according to a statement from the USCG. "The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department plans to conduct diving and sonar operations to locate wreckage. The Coast Guard safety zone surrounding the recovery operations remains in effect until further notice."

The Coast Guard said that all traffic normally transitioning through Angels Gate should re-route, enter and depart from the Long Beach Queens Gate entrance.

The two small aircraft were described as a Beech 35 Bonanza and a Citabria, according to FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer.

"Local authorities say that two people were aboard the Beech Bonanza and one person was onboard the Citabria,'' Kenitzer said.

According to officials, both aircraft were operated out of the Torrance Municipal Airport.

The crew of a fishing boat reported a plane hitting the water on Friday, an official with the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Lifeguards Division said.

A small debris field was located after a plane was reported down at 3:14 p.m. Friday, near the Point Fermin Lighthouse, according to Erik Scott of the Los Angeles Fire Department, which assisted in a multi-agency search effort.

A Coast Guard helicopter was launched at 6:30 a.m. Saturday to perform an aerial evaluation of the search effort, said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Andrea Anderson.

Two men, one 61 and the other 81, were believed to be in the plane that crashed off San Pedro and left the debris field, Anderson said.

A woman was believed to have been piloting the second plane, which has not made contact or been seen since the crash, Anderson said.

All three missing people were from the South Bay area, a Coast Guard official said.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash, according to Kenitzer.

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