Angel Flight Crash

This is very sad.  It seems that Angel Flight West has suffered the loss of one of its pilots while enroute to pick up a patient for transport to the UCLA Medical Center.

SANTA MONICA, California (AP) — A former TV game show host and his wife were killed Monday morning when their small plane crashed into Santa Monica Bay, authorities said. Rescue crews were searching for a third person also aboard the plane.

The bodies of Peter Tomarken, 63, host of the hit 1980s game show “Press Your Luck,” and his wife, Kathleen Abigail Tomarken, 41, were identified by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office.

The plane was on its way to San Diego to ferry a medical patient to the UCLA Medical Center, said Doug Griffith, a spokesman for Angel Flight West, a nonprofit which provides free air transportation for needy patients.

Griffith said the pilot was a volunteer for the group.

This isn’t the first AFW accident.  I can’t recall if there have ever been any fatal accidents while on a transport flight, but I do know that Angel Flight has an outstanding safety record covering more than two decades.

Everyone in the organization starts and ends with the mindset that cancellations are okay.  If the weather, the aircraft, or anything else is not 100%, pilots are encouraged to stay on the ground.  There’s no pressure to fly — in fact, patients are supposed to have an alternative form of transportation available just in case a flight cannot be completed due to extenuating circumstances.

I flew for Angel Flight for many years, later working as a mission coordinator, and found it to be the most rewarding part of aviation.  I’ve always thought that the pilots got more out of the deal than our passengers, a warm feeling of restored faith in one’s fellow man.  Everyone I flew with was extremely grateful, and had a unique and interesting story to tell.

I don’t think anyone can dispute the fact that Angel Flight makes our world a better place.  Much better.

My heart goes out to the Tomarken family.  Perhaps it will serve as a small comfort to them that their loved ones died while doing something that makes a real and vital difference in the lives of people suffering from terrible illnesses.

  2 comments for “Angel Flight Crash

  1. GC
    March 14, 2006 at 10:11 am

    It’s very sad to lose a friend in the aviation community, especially as they are selflessly donating time and money to such a good cause.

    Looking at the images posted on, the aircraft (an A-36 Bonanza, I believe) appears to be completely intact. I wonder what the caused this accident? A person savvy in accident investigation can probably draw a lot of conclusions just from the half-dozen pictures that accompany the article.

  2. Ron
    March 14, 2006 at 11:05 pm

    I was wondering the same thing. Perhaps they were not able to get out of the aircraft before it sank? It’s a mystery. It seems that the plane was kept flying right until the moment it ditched in the water. If it had been stalled or spun in, I can’t imagine that it would be in such pristine condition.

    You’re right, I bet the NTSB already has some idea of what happened.

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