KINGSTON Jamaica (Reuters) – The U.S. Coast Guard said on Sunday it abandoned its search for a small, private American plane that strayed into the Caribbean on a flight to Florida before apparently crashing near Jamaica, with the pilot and at least one passenger presumed dead.
The plane, whose pilot became unresponsive during the flight, went down northeast of Jamaica on Friday after veering off course and triggering a U.S. security alert that prompted two fighter jets to trail the wayward aircraft until it entered Cuban airspace.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command suggested on its Twitter page that the plane’s pilot was overcome by “possible hypoxia,” a rare condition caused by a loss of cabin pressure that could have rendered everyone on board unconscious.
The crash site of the single-engine, seven-seat plane, a Socata TBM700, was believed to be about 14 miles (22 km) north of the coastal Jamaican town of Port Antonio.
The U.S. Coast Guard had deployed a cutter, search helicopter and other crews to assist in looking for wreckage and possible survivors, but those units returned to base on Sunday, said Petty Officer Sabrina Laberdesque.
“We are no longer engaged in an active search but will be providing other assistance to the Jamaican authorities,” she said.
Jamaican officials said on Sunday their search and recovery operation would continue, led by the Jamaica Defense Force Coast Guard and Air Wing.
Major Basil Jarrett of the Jamaica Defence Force told a news conference there was little hope of finding survivors.
Two people on board the plane were presumed killed – Larry Glazer, a real estate executive from Rochester, New York, and his wife, Jane Glazer. It was not known if anyone else was on the plane.
The pilot stopped responding to radio calls about an hour after takeoff from Greater Rochester International Airport on a flight bound for Naples Municipal Airport in Florida, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration reported.
(Reporting by Horace Helps; Editing by Victoria Cavaliere, Steve Gorman and Peter Cooney)