California

Central California police believe missing man stole airplane

This undated photo released by the Watsonville Police Department shows Hugo Mar. Police investigating a small plane that was stolen from a central California airport and vanished from radar last month identified Mar, a missing man who was a member of a local flying club, as the suspected thief on Thursday, July 11, 2019. The plane was reported stolen on June 27, and disappeared from radar about 3 miles from the Watsonville Municipal Airport. No wreckage or a body has been found. Mar was reported missing on July 1. (Watsonville Police Department via AP)
This undated photo released by the Watsonville Police Department shows Hugo Mar. Police investigating a small plane that was stolen from a central California airport and vanished from radar last month identified Mar, a missing man who was a member of a local flying club, as the suspected thief on Thursday, July 11, 2019. The plane was reported stolen on June 27, and disappeared from radar about 3 miles from the Watsonville Municipal Airport. No wreckage or a body has been found. Mar was reported missing on July 1. (Watsonville Police Department via AP) AP

Police investigating a small plane that was stolen out of a central California airport and vanished from radar last month say they believe the suspect is a missing man who was a member of a local flying club.

Watsonville police identified 64-year-old Huga Mar as the suspected thief, KGO-TV reported . Police believe Mar crashed the plane.

Mar's family reported him missing since July 1.

Mar has no history with police. He was a licensed private pilot and a member of the Santa Cruz Flying Club, which owned the stolen plane, a single-engine Cessna. The club operates out of the Watsonville Municipal Airport, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) from Santa Cruz.

The plane was reported stolen from the airport on June 27, the day after video footage shows the airplane taxiing toward the runway. The police do not have surveillance of Mar entering the plane and taking off.

Detectives found Mar's abandoned car at an airport parking lot used by pilots.

Federal investigators said the plane disappeared from radar about 3 miles (5 kilometers) out over the Pacific Ocean from the Santa Cruz coast. The U.S. Coast Guard did find any wreckage or a body.

Mar was authorized to enter the airport and was a member in good standing who could have made a reservation to fly the aircraft, the club said on its website. However, he didn't make a reservation, per club protocol, and ignored Federal Aviation Administration protocol to make radio calls at the time of departure.

The club said Mar's failure to follow procedures appears suspicious, but it declined to speculate on his mental state.

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family of the deceased," the club said.

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