Oscar-winning Titanic composer James Horner has died in a plane crash in Southern California.

A single-engine plane registered to the 61-year-old crashed at about 9.30am local time yesterday near Quatal Canyon in Los Padres National Forest, Ventura County fire spokesman Mike Lindbery said. The pilot was killed, and no one else was on board.

Jay Cooper, a lawyer for Horner, said the plane was one of several owned by the composer, and that no one has heard from him since the crash.

''It was his plane and if he wasn't in it, he would've called,'' Mr Cooper said.

Sylvia Patrycja, who is identified on Horner's film music page as his assistant, wrote on Facebook: ''A great tragedy has struck my family today, and I will not be around for a while. I would like some privacy and time to heal.

''We have lost an amazing person with a huge heart, and unbelievable talent. He died doing what he loved. Thank you for all your support and love and see you down the road. Love Sylvia.''

Director Ron Howard wrote on Twitter: ''Brilliant Composer James Horner, friend & collaborator on 7 movies has tragically died in a plane crash. My heart aches for his loved ones.''

A Ventura County fire spokesman confirmed that a plane registered to Horner had crashed, that the pilot had died and no-one else was on board.

The plane was an S-312 Tucano MK1 turbo-prop with two seats, said Ian Gregor, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Crews extinguished a fire that erupted in vegetation surrounding the remote crash site, about 100 miles from Los Angeles.

Horner has been nominated for 10 Academy Awards, winning two for 1997's best picture, Titanic. He composed the film's score and its enduring theme song, My Heart Will Go On, sung by Celine Dion.

One of the songs on the soundtrack was called Southampton, and was composed especially for the moment the characters arrive in the city and see the ship for the first time.

His scores for Alien, Apollo 13, Field of Dreams, Braveheart, A Beautiful Mind, House Of Sand And Fog and Avatar also earned Oscar nods, as did his original song Somewhere Out There, from An American Tail.