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Small plane that crashed off Half Moon Bay carried 4 people; 1 victim identified, officials say

CALIFORNIA, USA - DECEMBER 28: Hundreds of people hike to trailhead to watch massive waves and surfers at Mavericks Beach of Half Moon Bay as high surf and coastal flood warning in California, United States on December 28, 2023. (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu via Getty Images)
People watch surfers ride large waves along the Half Moon Bay coast in December 2023. A small plane carrying four people crashed Sunday off Half Moon Bay. (Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

A pilot and three passengers were aboard the small plane that crashed into the ocean Sunday off Half Moon Bay, National Transportation Safety Board officials said Tuesday, but officials have so far recovered only one body.

The plane crashed into the ocean shortly after takeoff. Officials initially reported that two were aboard the aircraft but on Tuesday said that there were four.

The body of a woman, presumed to be one of the victims, was found Monday morning by a commercial fishing boat close to the site of the crash, officials said. The San Mateo County Coroner's Office identified her as 27-year-old Emma Willmer-Shiles of San Francisco.

Early Monday, the Coast Guard suspended its nearly six-hour search across a 28-square-mile area for the crash victims. Sgt. Philip Hallworth, a spokesperson for the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, said the prospect of finding survivors was unlikely.

Wreckage from the aircraft was found upside down in the water, and a large piece of the plane washed up on the beach at Ross Cove, officials said. An updated Federal Aviation Administration incident notice described the aircraft as destroyed.

Read more: Woman's body discovered after small plane crash in Half Moon Bay

The Cozy Mark IV airplane — a four-seat, single-engine craft — crashed soon after it took off from Half Moon Bay Airport around 7 p.m. Sunday, said Sarah Taylor Sulick, an NTSB spokesperson. She said NTSB investigators arrived at the scene Tuesday morning but added that the safety board has no role in identifying victims or commenting on the extent of injuries.

Sulick said the agency's investigation would focus on the cause of the crash, looking into flight tracking data, air traffic control communications, aircraft maintenance records, weather issues, the pilot's license and background, and any available video or witness statements.

Witnesses first reported seeing the plane flying erratically before falling out of sight, sparking the search and investigation Sunday night, officials said.

Sulick asked that any witnesses with information or video of the crash to email the NTSB at witness@ntsb.gov.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.