Search continues for missing Jacksonville-bound plane

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – U.S. Coast Guard officials resumed searching Tuesday for two people aboard a plane that went missing in the St. Simons Island area near Georgia's coastline.

The Federal Aviation Administration along with the National Transportation Safety Board also resumed search efforts early Tuesday morning. Divers searched a marshy area near the Georgia coastline for a small plane that went missing Monday night.

Capt. Jay Wiggins, director of the Glynn County Emergency Management Agency, confirmed a plane was down Monday night, which was later identified as a Piper PA-44 aircraft. According to the FAA Communications Manager Kathleen Bergen, the Piper PA-44 aircraft crashed at 7:10 p.m. and had two people on board. Names of the people will be released by local authorities, Bergen said. Aircraft information will be released by the FAA. According to Bergen, the plane departed from Concord, North Carolina and was bound for Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport.

The U.S. Coast Guard Sector out of Charleston, S.C., is reporting that the two people on board have not been located. Multiple debris fields consistent with a plane crash were found, but not the two people. The Coast Guard also reported a different crash site than the FAA. According to a release from the Coast Guard, the plane crashed "near Grant Creek on the Mackay River, east of Golden Isles Aviation in St. Simons Island ... ."

A boat crew from Coast Guard Station Brunswick and a helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Savannah is helping with the search.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Shawn Etcher said Tuesday that authorities using sonar devices found objects in an area of water that's roughly 12- to 15-feet deep.

"An airplane was observed falling out of the sky," Etcher said.

Etcher says investigators have recovered small pieces of debris, but haven't found the plane or its passengers yet. Etcher says the debris appears to be concentrated in a relatively small area.

The plane is believed to belong to ATP Flight School, which has operations at Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport.

At the time of the crash, "they were communicating with (air traffic control) there was nothing heard from quick listen of the tape of any distress call," Etcher said.

The cause of the crash is unclear, and the passengers on board have not been identified.

A boat crew from Coast Guard Station Brunswick and a helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Savannah is helping with the search.

The plan is to keep searching until dark Tuesday evening because of the difficulty to light the marsh. Preparations are underway to evacuate the aircraft, which at the earliest would happen Wednesday.


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