Body of pilot who buzzed Santa Monica Pier recovered from China lake

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The body of stunt pilot David Riggs -- who gained notoriety for buzzing the Santa Monica Pier -- was discovered Friday by search-and-rescue teams diving in a lake in northeastern China where he had crashed earlier in the week, Chinese media said.

The body of Studio City-based Riggs was recovered at 12:12 p.m. local time from Caihu Lake on the outskirts of Shenyang after a search that lasted nearly three days, World Now reported.

Riggs, a controversial figure whose pilot’s license was suspended, flew his plane into the lake Tuesday afternoon while performing a stunt in which the wheels of the aircraft grazed the surface to produce a skiing effect.


After the crash, chances for his survival had been thought low because water temperatures in the lake were below 50 degrees and the plane broke up on impact.

Although the single-engine stunt plane Riggs flew was too small to be equipped with a black box that would reveal the cause of the crash, Chinese witnesses say that he had disregarded suggestions that he abort the flight because of bad weather.

An 18-year-old Chinese woman who was working as Riggs’ translator was also killed in the crash.

Riggs was a self-promoting stunt pilot whose antics inspired much litigation, criminal and civil, as well as a website,, devoted to bringing him down.

He twice buzzed the Santa Monica Pier in 2008 and twice lost his aviation license, most recently in November 2012, as a result of an accident in which another plane crashed in the Nevada desert.



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Twitter: @BarbaraDemick