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Engine failure forced plane into water near Catalina Island

Engine failure forced a single-engine plane into the water near Santa Catalina Island on Saturday afternoon, but the two people on board were unharmed and rescued by a nearby boat, authorities said.

The plane went down about 1:15 p.m. about six miles northeast of the island, said Coast Guard spokesman Adam Eggers.

A recreational boat that was nearby responded and rescued the two people in the water, Eggers said. Neither was injured.

The two passengers were taken to Catalina Island.

Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said the plane experienced engine failure before going into the water. 

Drew Naffziger, 50, was on his way to Catalina Island with his brother and wife when he noticed the low-flying plane.

“I told my brother ‘Hey this plane is pretty low and I don’t hear an engine either,’” he said. “I think it’s going to crash.”

Seconds later, 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 said.

Naffziger rushed to the two men, threw them a life ring and pulled them onto the boat. Naffizger's wife, a nurse, grabbed blankets to keep the two men warm, he said.

The men looked to be OK, Naffziger said. “They were elated that we grabbed them,” he said.

Jorge O’Leary, manager of the Airport in the Sky in Avalon, said the plane was among a group of three piloted by friends planning to have lunch on the island.

“I heard the mayday on the radio – the plane had engine trouble,” O’Leary said. “He was already descending and about 6,000 feet above sea level.” 

“The other two planes were circling overhead,” he said, “keeping an eye on their buddy.” 

O’Leary said the plane floated in the water a while before sinking.

“There are a bunch of others down there,” he said. “Because of the depth of the extreme of the channel, once they’re gone they are gone.”

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stephen.ceasar@latimes.com | Twitter: @stephenceasar

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