A woman missing since the plane she was flying crashed off the Santa Barbara County coast has been identified as the Coast Guard called off its search Monday.

Deborah Nicholson, a 61-year-old woman from the Lake Tahoe area, was the sole occupant of the single-engine Cessna 182 Skylane that lost communication with flight control at the Santa Barbara Airport around 7:10 a.m. Sunday, the local Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

The aircraft en route to Lake Tahoe is believed to have crashed into the ocean about 2 miles off Campus Point at UC Santa Barbara in Isla Vista, authorities said.

Rescue crews were sent out, including aerial units and the deployment of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Plane debris was found in the area, and an oil sheen on the water smelled like aircraft fuel. The search for a body was carried out in waters roughly 200 feet deep.

But the Coast Guard suspended its search Monday, handing it over to Santa Barbara County sheriff’s officials, who enlisted the help of sheriff’s dive crews from Los Angeles County.

The Sheriff’s Office said it’s now handling the case as a missing person investigation.

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By Richard Moran

Richard Moran loves to write about sports with the Golden State Online. Before that, he worked as a senior writer at ESPN. Richard grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of San Diego in 2004, after which he worked as an editor for five years.

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