Specialized ship to search for plane off Venezuela

AP News
Posted: Jan 25, 2013 9:48 PM

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — A ship specially equipped for deep-water searches is headed to Venezuela to scan the seafloor for a plane that vanished carrying the CEO of Italian fashion house Missoni, the government said Friday.

The BN-2 Islander plane dropped off radar screens soon after takeoff on Jan. 4 from the resort islands of Los Roques. It was carrying two crew members and four Italian tourists, including Vittorio Missoni, CEO of his family's fashion company.

The ship will arrive in early February and will expand current search efforts by scanning for the plane in deep waters off the islands, Air and Sea Transport Minister Rear Adm. Elsa Gutierrez told state media.

Italy's ambassador in Venezuela, Paolo Serpi, said the oceanographic ship belongs to an international company and that Italian and Venezuelan officials had together sought to hire it for the job.

"There are few of them in the world, very few ships equipped for deep searches. In this case, we're talking about depths of up to 2,000 meters (6,500 feet)," Serpi said in a recent interview on state television. He said such ships don't exist in Italy because the Mediterranean Sea doesn't have such depths as the area of the Caribbean where the plane is thought to have gone down.

Serpi said the ship will be looking for not one but two planes.

Another small plane has never been found after disappearing off the islands four years earlier on Jan. 4, 2008. That plane, on a flight from Caracas to Los Roques, vanished with 14 people aboard, including eight Italians, a Swiss man and five Venezuelans. The pilot radioed to controllers that he was having engine trouble before the plane went down as it approached the islands. The body of the Venezuelan co-pilot later washed ashore, but no wreckage was recovered.