A pilot who reported having engine trouble was found dead Tuesday morning, the Marin County Sheriff said, and crews found pieces of the wreckage of his small aircraft in a hilly area near Novato.
Crews also had put out a 40-acre grass fire at the site where the remnants of a single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza was discovered, Lt. Doug Pittman added. He said it looked like the plane exploded on impact in an area called Hicks Valley.
"It's in bad shape," Pittman said of the plane.
The plane had been en route to San Carlos from Brookings, Oregon, and had reported trouble around 9:30 p.m. Monday, according to FAA spokesman Ian Gregor. Pittman gave NBC Bay Area the plane's tail number, and FAA records show the plane was co-registered to a Redwood City man.
The pilot indicated he would try to make it to Gnoss Field in Novato. But air traffic controllers lost radar and radio contact with the plane shortly after that, Gregor said. He said authorities believe the pilot was the only one on board.
Still, early Tuesday morning, deputies hadn't been able to go inside the plane to confirm just who was inside, Pittman said.
Pittman said his dispatch center received two distress calls about 11 p.m. Monday. One was an electronic beacon beeping from somewhere north in Marin County. Then the FAA called, saying a plane had lost contact with air control.
Since it was foggy and drizzling, Pittman said the sheriff couldn't send a helicopter up, so deputies searched on the ground for three hours until one spotted a fire burning.
Then it took another hour in rocky terrain to actually find the plane.
NBC Bay Area's Shelby Hansen contributed to this report.