CARLSBAD, Calif. — Rescuers from a variety of agencies searched the water near Carlsbad after reports of a small plane crash off the coast late Wednesday morning, but eventually learned a stunt pilot soaring close to the water had prompted a false alarm.
Rescue teams — including crews from Carlsbad, Oceanside, Del Mar and Encinitas — were sent into the water near Carlsbad Boulevard and Solamar Drive after getting multiple emergency calls around 11 a.m.
Helicopter video from SkyFOX showed a line of emergency vehicles along the coast, rescue boats on the water and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter scanning the area around noon. There was no immediate sign of a plane in the water, however, and a county spokesperson said the FAA could not confirm whether an aircraft crashed.
Eventually, Carlsbad Fire Department said they learned of a pilot who had landed safely at Montgomery Field and confirmed he was doing stunts in the area around the time of the reports.
“There is a pilot that recently landed at a local airport that confirms he was off the coast … flying low and doing some maneuvers off the coast, and that they safely landed,” CFD Batt. Chief Kevin Lynds told FOX 5.
The U.S. Coast Guard later confirmed the reports of a crash were considered unfounded.
Some limited resources remained out on the water as a final precaution, but many parts of the major search and rescue effort had been withdrawn by 2 p.m. Officials said their aggressive response was prompted by a variety of emergency calls, though they had contained conflicting information from the start.
At Palomar Airport, a spokesperson said they got at least one report of a plane down in the water. Other callers told 911 they had seen a plane swooping unusually close to the ocean, but not crashing. Reports of a plane crashing or flying dangerously came in from as far south as Cardiff, officials said.
FOX 5 anchor Kathleen Bade was walking on the bluffs in the area and says she saw the airplane flying mere feet above the surf before disappearing into the distance.
“It was just about 5 feet above the water and the wheels looked like they couldn’t have been maybe even 3 feet above the water. It just looked so close,” Bade told FOX 5. “(We) were just sort of scratching our heads wondering what was going on.”