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Three killed in Catalina plane crash [UPDATED]

February 6, 2009 | 12:09 pm

Mecatalinaplanecrash7_2 Three people were killed after their Orange County-bound plane crashed onto a remote hilltop on Catalina Island late Thursday, officials said today.

A search helicopter located the wreckage about 10 a.m. on a hilltop area just west of Catalina’s Airport in the Sky, said Los Angeles County Sheriff Sgt. John Hudson.

A search-and-rescue team found three burned bodies in the wreckage. Although the crash victims have not been identified, they are believed to be pilot Mark Hogland and his two passengers, who took off in the small airplane Thursday but never landed, according to U.S. Coast Guard officials.

"There were no survivors,” Hudson said.

Hogland, who chartered a fixed wing Bonanza aircraft out of Orange County, took off from the island at 4:50 p.m Thursday and was expected to land at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana at 5:10 p.m.

The Coast Guard began searching for the plane around 10:30 p.m. after Hogland’s fiancee reported that she had not heard from him. It was raining and cloudy when the plane took off, so the weather and poor visibility may have been factors.

Mark Hogland, 48, is the president of SkyBlue USA, a Dana Point company that, according to its website, offers sightseeing tours along "Southern California’s beautiful coastline, Catalina Island and other scenic locations."

Sheriff's officials confirmed the plane belonged to his company.

Sheriff's officials are investigating the crash with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Department of the Coroner, which is working to identify the victims.

Since Thursday  night the U.S. Coast Guard and Los Angeles and Orange County sheriff officials and lifeguard agencies have been scouring the waters around Catalina and the coastline with patrol boats, a large C-130 aircraft and helicopters.

The Coast Guard also is looking into any radio communications they may have been sent after the plane took off.

Updated, 1 p.m.: Mark Hogland, the Dana Point pilot who died in a plane crash with two passengers aboard on Santa Catalina Island Thursday, was not licensed to conduct charter flights, Federal Aviation Administration records show.

Hogland was certified on Aug. 20, 2008, with a private pilot's license, but that did not qualify him for commercial flights such as sightseeing tours. The 1983 Beechcraft Bonanza fixed-wing, single-engine plane was registered to SkyBlue USA, according to FAA records, and had been used for charter flights. But sheriff's officials do not know what kind of flight Hogland was conducting Thursday.

"We don't know whether the three were affiliated as friends or whether they chartered him to bring them over here," said Deputy Burt Lyon of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Avalon Station. The FAA is investigating the crash. Spokesman Ian Gregor declined to comment on the crash specifically, but said  "looking at pilot qualifications are a part of every FAA active investigation."

Updated, 2:45 p.m.: An earlier version of this post called the plane a Beechwood Bonanza. It is a Beechcraft Bonanza.

-- Tony Barboza