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BY KAREN KUCHER | San Diego Union-Tribune

SAN DIEGO — A small Cessna plane crashed in La Jolla Wednesday night, killing the pilot, officials said.

The wreckage of the plane, a single-engine Cessna P210, was found shortly after 2 a.m. in a brushy area off Caminito Claro near Gilman Drive, said San Diego police Officer David O’Brien.

Residents called 911 around 9:35 p.m. reporting that they heard or saw a distressed plane and that it had crashed.

“We got reports that the plane was low, circling the area” and reports that “the plane had gone down,” O’Brien said.

Officers searched the area, but it took hours to locate the wreckage in the dark. O’Brien said the aircraft missed a condo complex and hit a hillside.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration registry, the plane’s registered owner lives in Carlsbad.

The pilot was the only person on board the six-seater and died before he could be taken to a hospital. His name was not released, pending notification of family.

According to FlightAware, the plane departed from French Valley Airport, just north of Temecula, on Monday and flew to Buchanan Field Airport in Concord. The plane was headed back from the Bay Area Wednesday night but diverted from French Valley. The Cessna appeared to attempt to land at Montgomery Field in Kearny Mesa before continuing west toward La Jolla, according to FlightAware tracking. It crashed about 3 miles west of the airport, according to a spokesperson from the National Transportation Safety Board.

“An NTSB investigator will arrive on site later today to begin the on-scene portion of the investigation,” according to the spokesperson. “Once on site, the investigator will begin the process of documenting the scene and examining the aircraft. The aircraft will then be recovered to a secure facility for further evaluation.”

No other information was immediately available.