The pilot who buzzed the Santa Monica Pier in a jet plane almost five years ago and was later convicted for recklessly operating an aircraft in violation of the California Public Utilities Code is presumed dead after an aircraft crash in northeast China on Tuesday.
China’s Xinhua news agency reports that Riggs is still missing as of Thursday night local time.
The agency says rescuers on Thursday expanded their search area to 100 meters (328 feet) around the site of the crash, adding 20 rescuers from the Beijing-based Lantian rescue team have joined the 11-member team from the Beihai rescue bureau under the Ministry of Communications in the search.
The LA Times reports that Riggs was reportedly flying a Lancair 320, a high-performance single-engine aircraft made from a kit, when he struck the surface of a lake outside Shenyang, where he was planning to perform in an airshow.
His 18-year-old translator was killed instantly, but Riggs’ body was not found, according to The Times.
In November 2012, Riggs had his commercial pilot license revoked by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Earlier in 2012, Riggs reportedly had his probation revoked by a Los Angeles Superior Court commissioner for failure to complete community service.
The FAA issued its ruling after completing an investigation of the plane crash in May 2011, where a pilot and passenger were both killed. According to news reports, Riggs, 50, was involved in an incident in Boulder City, Nevada where he flew side-by-side with another plane, an experimental aircraft, just before it plunged into the desert, killing the pilot and a passenger.
The aircraft was an Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros, a Soviet-era, Czech-built military jet trainer, was coincidentally the same aircraft Riggs flew over the Santa Monica Pier five years ago.
An order reportedly issued by the FAA cited Riggs for allowing the pilot and passenger to pay to fly in an experimental plane. The FAA reportedly revoked Riggs’ license for recklessly allowing someone to commercially fly an experimental aircraft.
In November 2008, Riggs was accused of flying the L-39 too close to the Pier and Santa Monica State Beach. There was also a second plane involved but, according to the FAA, the pilot of that aircraft was not charged or convicted of any crime.
Amateur video on YouTube shows the planes flying just above the Pier and relatively close to the shoreline along the State Beach. At certain points, Pier visitors are seen running away from the planes; screams are clearly audible. Several 911 calls were reportedly made during the brief aerial display.
In June 2010, Riggs was sentenced to three years’ probation, 60 days community service, and 60 days jail time; he was also fined $900. However, Riggs only served one day of his jail sentence due to overcrowding at the county’s facilities.