Coast Guard vessels search the waters of  San Pablo Bay on Monday in Richmond.  (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)
Coast Guard vessels search the waters of San Pablo Bay on Monday in Richmond. (Laura A. Oda/Bay Area News Group)

RICHMOND -- A marine salvage company pulled the fuselage of a fallen Cessna 210 and the body of the pilot from San Pablo Bay on Wednesday afternoon, three days after the small plane most likely collided with another aircraft and plunged into the water below.

Officials have still not identified the pilot or given information on a cause of death.

On Tuesday, a wing, a wheel and other small parts of the plane were located about 1.5 miles off the shore near Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor in Richmond, said Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jimmy Lee. An underwater camera located the fuselage of the plane, which was returning from the Pacific Coast Dream Machines Show at the Half Moon Bay Airport on Sunday afternoon with a single-engine Hawker Sea Fury TMK20 when the collision occurred.

Howard Plagens, the National Transportation Safety Board's lead investigator on the incident, said Wednesday it's too early to tell what caused the Cessna to crash into the water. As the barge carrying the wreckage pulled to shore, investigators were working quickly to splash fresh water onto the downed plane to preserve any evidence, he said.

Plagens added that investigators want to inspect the wreckage further before a preliminary report would be made issued Monday. Plagens would not comment on early reports that the two planes had touched or collided in mid-air.

"You always want everything, but we will take what (information) we can get," he said. "We aren't trying to analyze anything, we are just gathering facts."


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Plagens added that the pilots of the Hawker and the Cessna -- whom he described as "good friends" -- radioed each other before the Cessna crashing Sunday. He said the pilot of the Cessna indicated to the pilot of the Hawker that he wanted to take a picture of the aircraft.

"The pilot said that it was a good photo opportunity as he was going home," Plagens said.

Eric Johnson, the harbormaster at Point San Pablo Yacht Harbor, said the past three days have been difficult and that a few eyewitnesses have been in the harbor describing what they saw, which he said was "traumatic."

"We've been worried about a body washing up here," Johnson said, who in his 13 years at the harbor has pulled four bodies from the water along the shoreline. "We are glad for the family that they get closure and we don't have to worry about an incident in the harbor."

The Hawker pilot landed safely at Eagle's Nest Airport in Ione, in Amador County, about 4:45 p.m. Sunday, said Federal Aviation Administration regional spokesman Ian Gregor. Both planes are based at the Eagles Nest Airport and owned by Sanders Aeronautics, according to FAA records.

Contra Costa County Sheriff's office spokesman Jimmy Lee said pinpointing the fuselage took two days because search crews needed radar data that authorities did not receive until Tuesday afternoon. The NTSB provided search teams with coordinates of the plane based on its last radar position about 4:05 p.m. Sunday, Lee said.

Contact Kristin J. Bender at kbender@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/kjbender. Contact Katie Nelson at knelson@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter/katienelson210.