The wreckage of a single-engine plane carrying three students from Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut was found Tuesday morning near Lake Isabella, the Civil Air Patrol said.
Initial reports indicated that the plane was virtually destroyed when it slammed into a mountainside. It did not appear that there were any survivors.
Lt. Col. Bob Fowler of the CAP said the Piper Cherokee had left Brackett Field in La Verne on Friday. Aboard the plane were Adrian Cardona, 29, of West Covina, a member of the Mt. San Antonio College Flying Club; Richard Otero, 22, of El Monte, and Oscar del Castillo, 19, of Diamond Bar.
Fowler said the plane flew without incident to the Kern County Airport at Lake Isabella, where the three men took part in an outing with other members of the club.
The plane took off for the return trip to La Verne at 2:30 Sunday afternoon with Cardona at the controls, the air patrol agency said. Gene Nelson, operator of a flight service at the Kern County Airport, said the aircraft apparently flew up a box canyon and crashed into the side of a mountain about 15 miles south of Kernville a few minutes later.
An air search was launched Monday morning by the Civil Air Patrol after the plane failed to return to La Verne. Despite a daylong search, no wreckage was found and searchers failed to pick up any signal from the missing plane's emergency locater transmitter.
On Tuesday morning, helicopter pilot Bob Tur of radio station KNX saw the wreckage in extremely rugged terrain on the side of the mountain. He said that only the tail of the aircraft was recognizable.
Air patrol Capt. Wyn Selwin said registration numbers on the tail confirmed that it was from the missing Piper Cherokee.
A ground party from the Kern County Sheriff's Department was attempting to make its way to the wreckage late Tuesday.