A thief stole a small plane and then survived crash-landing it on a beach — with astonishing photos showing it sticking nose-first into the sand.
Witnesses reported seeing the small plane landing “near or on a beach” in Half Moon Bay, about 30 miles outside of San Francisco, at around 5 p.m. Thursday, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office said.
“A thorough search revealed a small plane on the sand, just south of Poplar Beach,” the department said.
“The plane was found intact and unoccupied,” the sheriff’s office added, with images showing the plane with striped wings tilted forward with its tail sticking up high.
Witnesses reported seeing a man”landing and then walking away from the airplane.”
Investigators then learned that “the airplane had been stolen from an airport in Palo Alto,” about 25 miles to the east.
The sheriff’s office said that the person walking away was identified as being Luiz Gustavo Aires, 50, from Miami, Florida. It was not immediately clear how he was identified nor what he was doing in the area.
Aires was booked into a Redwood City jail on a charge of theft of an airplane.
The red-and-white fixed-wing single engine American Champion Aircraft plane is owned by a San Mateo-based limited liability company, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
As of Friday morning, the plane was still on the beach, sheriff’s office spokesman Sgt. Javier Acosta told The Post.
Removing it from the beach surrounded by cliffs “is going to be a challenge,” he said.
The spokesperson declined to say whether Aires made any statements at the time of his arrest that could explain the bizarre incident.
“I’ve been doing this for just about 20 years, and it’s a first for me,” Acosta said.