Coast Guard Suspends Search for Survivors Of Mid Air Collision Off Long Beach Harbor





Coast Guard Suspends Search for Survivors Of Mid Air Collision Off Long Beach Harbor

By Mike Mitchell


May 21, 2009, The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended their search Tuesday afternoon for survivors of a mid-air collision that occurred Monday evening five miles southwest of the Long Beach break wall. Spokesman, Ian Gregor of the FAA said one of the aircraft was a Cessna 172, a single-engine aircraft, two pilots were onboard, flight instructor, James C. Choo, and his student pilot. The Cessna 172 is registered to Aero Aviation Flight School at the Long Beach Airport. The other aircraft was a twin-engine aircraft, a Cessna 310.

The Cessna 310 was owned and operated by Gary D. Gierczak, 53, of Los Alamitos and it believed that Mr. Gierczak was the only passenger onboard the Cessna 310. The initial report of the incident came from a pilot flying a small aircraft in the area who witnessed the collision about 5:45 PM led rescue personnel to the crash site off Long Beach Harbor.

The Coast Guard Command Center in San Pedro dispatched a HH-65C Dolphin Helicopter from Air Station Los Angeles, 87-foot cutter and a 41-foot rescue boat from Station Los Angeles. Aircraft and vessels and underwater equipment from the Coast Guard, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and Los Angeles County Fire Department, searched an area of approximately 160 square miles and did not find any signs of survivors.

More than 20 boats from the United States Coast Guard, Long Beach Fire Department and the Los Angeles Police department responded to the scene to try and locate survivors. Divers have found the wreckage of one of two small planes, the Cessna 172, but saw no signs of the three people believed to be aboard the planes. Divers using sonar equipment, found the single-engine Cessna 172 about 80 feet deep in an area 5 miles south of the Port of Long Beach. A 3-foot section of the plane's body and a portion of its tail along with small debris was located.


Flight Instructor, James C. Choo

Gary D. Gierczak


A portion of landing gear and other debris were recovered. Two separate debris fields were located about two hours after the collision. One field was approximately 5 miles southwest of the Long Beach Breakwater, and the second debris field was about 3 nautical miles northeast of the other debris field. Investigators say both aircraft took off from Long Beach Airport and later came down in an area of the ocean that is 93 to 115 feet deep. 

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