Search continues for two missing in Learjet crash off Florida

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 20, 2013 6:04 PM
Search continues for two missing in Learjet crash off Florida

MIAMI (Reuters) - A private jet that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean shortly after takeoff from Fort Lauderdale airport on Tuesday with four people on board had recently been inspected and had no known prior mechanical issues, according to the medical evacuation company that leased the plane.

The Learjet, headed for the resort island of Cozumel, off the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico, went down about a mile offshore shortly after 8 p.m. (0100 GMT Wednesday), according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Two bodies, a man and woman, were recovered along with debris from the plane, and a search-and-rescue effort continued on Wednesday for two other people believed to have been on board.

"Within three minutes after takeoff, the pilot informed the tower 'we have a problem.' Shortly thereafter, he declared 'Mayday,'" said Alberto Carson with San Diego-based Air Evac International (AEI) which leased the plane.

"At this point the cause of accident is unknown," he added.

Coast Guard aircraft and rescue boats searched the scene on Wednesday, and the cause of the crash is under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Mexico's Communications and Transport Ministry said in a statement that there were four people on board the plane - two pilots and two passengers. The Mexican ministry named the pilots as Jose Galvan de la O. and Josue Buendia and the two passengers as Fernando Senties and Mariana Gonzalez.

The aircraft is owned and operated by Aero JL in Toluca, Mexico, and had recently been inspected by a well-known accreditation agency, according to AEI's Carson.

AEI has multiple operation bases in Mexico and Costa Rica, serving major resort areas in Latin America.

(Reporting By David Adams; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)