Coast Guard ends search for pilot, 2 passengers of downed aircraft south of Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands


The Coast Guard ended their search at sunset Monday for the pilot and two passengers who remain missing after their aircraft went down Saturday, approximately six nautical miles south of Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

Coast Guard and U.S. Virgin Islands Department of Natural Resources rescue crews rescued a woman from the downed aircraft Saturday afternoon, who reported to rescue crews that there were three additional people traveling aboard the aircraft when it crashed into the water.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the friends and families of those who remain missing on the disappearance of their loved ones,” said Capt. Drew W. Pearson, Sector San Juan commander.

Coast Guard Watchstanders received notification at approximately 7:50 a.m. Saturday from the U.S. Virgin Islands Emergency Management Agency reporting an overdue twin-engine Piper Aztec aircraft that had taken off from Saint. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands and was headed to Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands to deliver a shipment of newspapers.  Local aircraft flying the area and the crew of a C-130 Hurricane Hunter, tracking the incoming Tropical Storm Rafael, reported finding a possible debris field, approximately six nautical miles southwest of St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. 

At approximately 2p.m. Saturday, the crew of a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter located a surviving passenger in the water and vectored-in the DPNR marine unit to her position.  The crew of the DPNR marine unit safely recovered the woman from the water and transported her to Saint Thomas, where she was transferred to awaiting Emergency Medical Services personnel.

Since the search began Saturday morning, Coast Guard rescue crews conducted 26 air and surface searches, spanning out approximately 4,800 square nautical miles throughout the search area in an attempt to find additional survivors.