AVALON, Calif. – A single-engine airplane experienced engine failure and went down Saturday off the Southern California coast near Catalina Island, but both people aboard survived and were rescued by a passing boat, authorities said.
The plane crashed about six miles northeast of Catalina around 1 p.m., according to Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
U.S. Coast Guard and lifeguard boats and helicopters were quickly sent to the scene, but a recreational boat was in the area, reached the pair first and pulled them aboard.
Drew Naffziger was on his way to Catalina Island with his brother and wife when he spotted the low-flying plane.
"I told my brother `Hey this plane is pretty low and I don't hear an engine either,"' Naffziger told the Los Angeles Times. "I think it's going to crash."
The plane went into the water about 100 yards from his boat. The plane's wheels hit first, then its nose dipped in, sending its tail straight up in the air before slamming back down, he told the newspaper.
Naffziger threw the plane's occupants a life preserver and pulled them onto the boat. Naffizger's wife, a nurse, grabbed blankets to keep the two men warm, he said.
Jorge O'Leary, manager of the Airport in the Sky in Avalon, told the Times the plane was among a group of three piloted by friends traveling to have lunch on the island.
"I heard the mayday on the radio -- the plane had engine trouble," O'Leary said.
A lifeguard craft from the city of Avalon met up with the boat and took the two people aboard. They had no injuries.
The identities of the two people were not immediately available.
The plane, a single-engine Texas Sport Cub, experienced engine failure before going into the water, Kenitzer said.
The plane is registered to David P. Prizio of Tustin and was powered by an amateur-built Jabiru 3300 experimental class engine, according to online FAA records.
U.S. Coast Guard Coast Guard spokesman Adam Eggers said the plane sank, leaving a small field of debris on the surface.