SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Peter Tomarken, host of the hit 1980s game show "Press Your Luck," and his wife were killed Monday when their small plane crashed in Santa Monica Bay shortly after takeoff on a volunteer medical transportation flight, authorities said. Searchers were looking for a third person reported aboard.
The bodies of Tomarken, 63, and wife Kathleen Abigail Tomarken, 41, were identified by the Los Angeles County coroner's office, said coroner's spokesman Craig Harvey.
Tomarken appeared in at least four other game shows in addition to "Press Your Luck," which was well known for contestants shouting the slogan "Big bucks, no whammies!"
The pilot was a volunteer for Angel Flight West, a nonprofit organization that provides free air transportation
for needy medical patients, said organization spokesman Doug Griffith, who withheld the pilot's name. The plane was flying to San Diego to pick up a passenger who needed to get to UCLA Medical Center for treatment, he said.
The Beech A36 went down about 9:35 a.m. while apparently trying to return to Santa Monica Airport because of engine trouble, said FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer. The airport is about two miles inland from the ocean.
The plane, found in 19 feet of water 200 yards offshore, was registered to Tomarken, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.
Rescue boats and divers converged on the scene, about a half-mile southwest of Santa Monica Pier. The aircraft, appearing largely intact, was later towed onto the beach.
Witness Luis Garr told KNBC-TV that the plane was silent as it "kind of landed into the water."
"I didn't hear any engine. It's a big splash, a huge splash, huge splash. Then it started going down. 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. It was just the tail. A surfer started swimming toward the plane and he was the first one on the scene. The lifeguard showed up. ... It had gone down."
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 was always a fun guy to be around, and he just loved the genre of game shows," Wostbrock said.
In 1987, Tomarken was on ABC with a show called "Bargain Hunters," and then went to the syndicated "Wipe-Out" in 1990. He returned to game shows in 2000 with the program "Paranoia."
I'll leave it up to all of you to see if you would want to talk about this on any platform (forum, radio, articles):