WATSONVILLE — Watsonville Police announced Thursday that the man who allegedly stole a small airplane out of Watsonville Municipal Airport (WMA) on June 26 appears to have flown the Cessna 172 SP Skyhawk into the sea.
“Our investigation has led us to believe that 64-year-old Watsonville resident Hugo Mar took the airplane on the night of June 26,” police said. “The owner of the airplane reported it stolen the following afternoon. The FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were immediately notified.”
The FAA’s preliminary investigation determined the stolen airplane crashed a few miles off the coast of the Santa Cruz Mountains, leaving no survivors, police said.
“Again, this is what the FAA’s preliminary investigation states. The U.S. Coast Guard canvassed the area but was unable to locate any evidence of a crash,” Watsonville Police Public Information Officer Michelle Pulido said. “The minute that airplane was stolen all federal agencies that are required to be notified were notified. They have yet to find any sort of evidence of this crash.”
Mar is an active member of a local flying club based out of the WMA. The stolen airplane had been leased to the Santa Cruz Flying Club. At the time the airplane was stolen, Mar did not have authorization to take it. Mar had attempted to reserve the airplane, but was denied by Santa Cruz Flying Club on the day the airplane was stolen. He reportedly took off without a flight plan and on an unscheduled departure around 9 p.m.
Detectives found Mar’s car abandoned at a WMA parking lot commonly used by pilots. The airport, family and friends have not seen or heard from him since.
Mar’s family reported him missing on July 1.
Police said they do not have surveillance footage showing Mar getting into the airplane and taking off. However, they do have video footage from June 26 that shows the stolen airplane taxiing toward the runway after 8:30 p.m.
“We’re at the point in our investigation where detectives are now asking for the public’s help,” Pulido said.
The plane is a 2000, four-seat, high wing craft that is very popular, especially for training, WMA Director Rayvon Williams said.
Anyone who might have recently seen or spoken to Mar, or has information regarding the stolen airplane is asked to call Detective Trevor Ihlen at 768-3321.