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Jamaica, US begin search of suspected plane crash site

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate editor -- features thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, September 06, 2014    

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A United States Coast Guard vessel is expected to arrive in Jamaica today to assist the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard in its recovery efforts related to the single-engine plane that crashed near the Jamaican coast yesterday. The three occupants of the aeroplane are presumed dead.

The search is expected to resume at sunrise and, according to Commander Antonette Wemyss-Gorman, should cover an area between 14 and 40 miles wide and between 1,500 and 2,000 feet deep.

"We would have to establish the precise area based on where we lost radar with the plane and where we spotted the oil spill in the wreckage field," she told the Jamaica Observer.

"It could be anything between 14 and 40 miles wide," she continued.


Commander Wemyss Gorman added that the JDF would get a better idea of the exact triangulation today, while pointing out that the area could expand as time progresses.

She spoke with the Observer after a joint press conference at Up Park Camp, the JDF headquarters in Kingston, yesterday.

The search was called off at dusk last evening and is expected to resume at sunrise today with a vessel from the US providing assistance to the JDF crew.

Head of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) Richard Thompson, who was also at the press conference, said yesterday that given the time that had elapsed since the plane went down just after 1:00 pm, the search was now considered a recovery effort, not a rescue of people.

It is believed that there were three people on board -- US billionaire Laurence Glazer, his wife Jane, and a pilot.

The trio left Rochester, New York, and was destined for Florida, but missed the southernmost US state, entered Cuban airspace, then the Jamaican airspace. It is believed to have run out of fuel some 14 miles north-east of Port Antonio, Portland, where it crashed.

The plane was initially tracked by US fighter jets, which reportedly peeled when it entered Cuban airspace. A Cuban fighter jet was reported to have also tracked the plane while it was over that country's airspace. There were several reports in US media that the pilot was seen slumped over in the cockpit. However, there was no confirmation from local authorities yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority of Jamaica yesterday denied reports in some overseas media that the pilot tried to make contact with Jamaican air traffic controllers, but to no avail.

Director general of the authority Leroy Lindsay said the aircraft -- a six-seater TBM 900 -- was made in France, but was registered in the US. The Ministry of Health was also represented at the press conference.

Yesterday, members of the Glazer family said that they were devastated by the news. Laurence Glazer was a major developer, who was said to have played a significant role in revitalising Rochester, a city in north western New York.

"We are devastated by the tragic and sudden loss of our parents, Jane and Larry Glazer," the three adult children of the couple said in a statement, cited by local media.

"We understand that there are many questions yet to be answered about today's events, and we too are awaiting answers," they said.

Meanwhile, news of the approach of the unresponsive plane caused a buzz in the Port Antonio yesterday, with several people gathering at the Errol Flynn Marina where the JDF and Marine coast guards are based.

-- Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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