Italian experts to help Venezuela in plane search

AP News
Posted: Jan 08, 2013 12:41 PM
Italian experts to help Venezuela in plane search

LOS ROQUES, Venezuela (AP) — Italy is sending a specialized team to Venezuela to help search for a small plane that disappeared last week off a string of Caribbean islands while carrying the CEO of the Italian fashion firm Missoni.

Among the four Italian tourists on the flight that never made it from the resort islands of Los Roques to Caracas on Jan. 4 is Vittorio Missoni, CEO of his family's fashion company.

Italian Foreign Ministry officials said Tuesday that the Civil Protection team will leave Wednesday to lend assistance. They also said Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi has praised Venezuela's "massive effort" in the search operations.

In Los Roques on Tuesday, search teams set out in patrol boats for their fifth day, carrying teams of divers.

The Italian team that will travel to Venezuela includes a naval expert, two fire department search-and-rescue experts and a member of Italy's national flight safety agency.

The Venezuelan government says that nearly 400 people have been involved in the search so far, using planes, helicopters and Coast Guard ships.

The islands are popular for scuba diving, white beaches and coral reefs. Missoni had been vacationing in the islands along with his companion, Maurizia Castiglioni, and two Italian friends.

The plane disappeared during a flight of about 95 miles (150 kilometers) from the islands to the Caracas airport.

Venezuelan authorities have said the twin-engine BN-2 Islander had enough fuel on board for a three-hour flight, and the flight was supposed to take 42 minutes.