PASCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) — Authorities in south Mississippi on Tuesday found pieces of what appear to be a single-engine plane that went missing shortly after taking off from a nearby airport with three people aboard.
Rescuers were still searching for survivors, however, Coast Guard Capt. Brandon Lechtaler said at a news conference.
The single-engine, private plane had been bound for South Carolina, but it was less than 50 miles east of the airport when it lost radar contact Monday afternoon. Lechtaler said it appears the plane went into the water, and investigators were searching for a location. He and other authorities at the news conference did not release the names of those onboard.
Authorities found debris Tuesday, including a piece with part of the private plane's registration number, on a beach in Ocean Springs, about 15 miles west of where the search was originally concentrated off Pascagoula.
"It is highly likely that is the aircraft we are looking for," Lechtaler said.
The plane, a privately owned Lancair, had stopped for fuel at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport on Monday. It took off for Summerville, South Carolina, at 12:22 p.m., according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware. The plane lost radar contact soon after taking off, Coast Guard spokesman Jonathan Lally said.
According to radar and cellphone signals, the plane's last known location was about 3.5 miles south of Pascagoula, over the water.
Peter Mastroianni runs the Million Air terminal at Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport. The terminal is used by private, corporate and military planes. Mastroianni told The Associated Press that the missing plane was not a tenant at the airport.
He would not release information about the people on board, citing respect for relatives still awaiting word on their loved ones.
The Coast Guard was notified about 10:40 p.m. Monday that the plane was missing, Lally said. The Marine Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard and Jackson County Sheriff's Office were conducting a joint search in the Mississippi Sound.