Rescuer says US pilot missing in China likely dead

BEIJING (AP) A missing U.S. stunt pilot whose plane crashed into a lake in northeast China likely died on impact, the head of the team searching for him said Friday.

David Riggs has been missing since Tuesday's accident outside the city of Shenyang in which his young female Chinese translator died. Riggs was in China to take part in a local air show.

Head rescuer Zhang Fang said parts of Riggs' high-performance single-engine Lancair 320 plane had been recovered, including one of its two seats.

Zhang said the plane had been traveling at a high speed and it would have been almost impossible to survive such an accident.

"In such an air crash, the victims have a very slim chance of survival," Zhang said by phone from the accident scene. "The American pilot sank to the bottom of the lake and ... has a very low chance of survival."

Zhang said Riggs crashed on a practice run while attempting a stunt in which the wheels of his plane were to drag along the lake surface. He had just taken off shortly after 1 p.m. in a light rain, but there was no indication he had violated any flying regulations, Zhang said.

Zhang said multiple rescue teams were working at the lake, but referred other questions about the crash to the city government, where phones rang unanswered on Friday, which was a public holiday in China.

Riggs was a well-known Hollywood stunt pilot and holder of several aviation speed world records, but lost his U.S. license twice for buzzing the famed Santa Monica pier in Los Angeles in his Vodochody L-39 Albatros jet trainer and for selling rides in his plane without permission.

His website said his aerial performances had featured in movies and television shows including "Iron Man," ''Jarhead," and the James Bond film "Casino Royale."

Despite his license being currently under suspension, he was hired by the organizers of the AOPA-China Fly-In 2013 air show as one of its star attractions.

China's official Xinhua News Agency said other U.S. flyers scheduled to take part in Friday's opening ceremony had pulled out of the show. Pilots and aircraft from Sweden, France and Lithuania were also due to take part in the show.