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Former game-show host dies in plane crash

‘Press Your Luck's’ Peter Tomarken and his wife died in their small plane
/ Source: The Associated Press

A former TV game show host and his wife were killed Monday morning when their small plane crashed into Santa Monica Bay shortly after takeoff on a volunteer flight for a medical charity, authorities said.

Divers called off a search for a third person late Monday after authorities concluded only two people were on board.

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.

Tomarken, the pilot, was a volunteer for the group. The FFA said the plane was registered to him.

The third person authorities initially believed was on board may have been the patient, said Coast Guard spokesman Tony Migliorini.

“We believe the third person was the person they were going to pick up,” he said. “When they filed the flight plan, they said three persons were to be on board. That’s why we had to presume they had three and did the search.”

The plane apparently had engine trouble and was headed back to Santa Monica Airport, located about two miles inland, but went down in about 19 feet of water about a half-mile southwest of the Santa Monica pier, authorities said.

Luis Garr said he didn’t hear the engine but heard the splash as the plane “kind of landed into the water.”

“It’s a big splash, a huge splash. ... Then it started going down,” Garr said. “The wings were still floating so I was, ‘Get out! Get out!’ because the door was still available to get out and nobody came out. So the plane kept going down, down, down.”

Tomarken’s death was first reported by “Entertainment Tonight.”

“Press Your Luck” was known for contestants shouting the slogan “Big bucks! No whammies!”

Tomarken’s agent, Fred Wostbrock, said his client’s first game show was “Hit Man!,” which ran 13 weeks on NBC, followed by the four-year hit “Press Your Luck” on CBS. He also was on “Bargain Hunters,” “Wipe-Out” and “Paranoia.”

“He was always a fun guy to be around, and he just loved the genre of game shows,” Wostbrock said.