MARINELAND, FL (WTLV/WJXX) -- The wreckage of a small plane that crashed late Thursday has been found in a remote area near the Flagler-St. Johns County line. Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said he believes there were no survivors.
The Flagler County Sheriff's Office confirmed that the plane they found is the same one they had been looking for that flew out of Sunrise Aviation flight school in Ormond Beach near Daytona.
Sunrise Aviation director of training Patrick Murphy told First Coast News that a 27-year-old student from Saudi Arabia and a 70-year-old instructor went missing. He said he believes they were on the plane, but this has yet to be confirmed by authorities.
The FAA said it lost contact with a Piper PA44 aircraft approximately 22 miles north of Ormond Beach around 11 p.m. Thursday.
The aircraft took off on what the flight school calls a routine flight from St. Simons Island, Georgia and was returning to Ormond Beach when it disappeared. A crew aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater was launched at 2:15 a.m.
The sheriff said the plane might have clipped a tree before crashing. Witnesses heard what they described as the sound of an engine sputtering.
"It's a night flight because the FAA And worldwide commercial pilots are required to have some night experience before they move on," Murphy told First Coast News.
The school said the 27-year-old student has a young daughter and wife in Saudi Arabia. He was aiming to go back home to fly for an airline. The instructor was a 70-year-old father and local to the area, it said.
"Most of our students are international, so we get to know them close," Murphy said. "Students are family, particularly in this kind of program where students come to us for six or 12 months."
Sunrise Aviation has been around since the 1980s. An official with the flight school said this is the first crash in which someone was critically hurt or killed.
"Planes occasionally have accidents," he said. "Pilots occasionally make mistakes. We train for everything we can."