Search widens in Fla. for 2 missing after air ambulance crash
(CNN) — Rescue workers scoured a widening swath of coastal Florida waters Wednesday for two people missing after a Mexico-based air ambulance crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Fort Lauderdale.
Coast Guard crews earlier recovered the bodies of two other people aboard the aircraft, but rescuers continue to hope that missing crew members survived and are clinging to life in the warm south Florida waters. The search will go on at least all day Wednesday, the Coast Guard said.
“In these types of cases, we hope for the best and we search for as long as we can,” Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss told reporters Wednesday.
Coast Guard crews, divers from the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and other rescuers were involved in the search, which spanned up to 24 miles of Florida coastline from Fort Lauderdale to Boynton Beach, Doss said. Currents are carrying the debris north, he said.
The Learjet 35 — carrying a doctor, nurse and two pilots, all of them Mexican citizens — crashed shortly after one of the pilots reported apparent engine failure shortly after takeoff Tuesday evening from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
The crew had just dropped a patient off at the airport and was returning to Mexico when the crash happened, airport spokesman Greg Meyer said.
A distress call from one of the pilots came just moments after takeoff.
“We have an engine failure,” the pilot said.
An air traffic controller asked him to turn left and keep a certain altitude.
“Not possible,” the pilot responded. “We’re going to do a 180, and we’re going to land.”
Seconds later, he said: “Mayday, mayday, mayday.”
Brian Rayner, an investigator for the NTSB said data indicated the plane climbed to about 2,000 feet before descending 1,000 feet. It then began to turn toward shore, Rayner said.
He said that he had submitted requests for the plane’s maintenance records and information about the pilots and their experience.
The two medical staff members worked for Air Evac International, said Albert Carson, the company’s director of operations. The pilots worked for a charter company.
Authorities have not publicly identified the bodies pending notification of their families.
“We’re waiting on pins and needles … waiting for more information,” Carson said late Tuesday night.
Air Evac International has several bases in Mexican cities that are popular with tourists, as well as in Costa Rica and San Diego. Carson said many of its patients are tourists.
CNN’s Dave Alsup and Janet DiGiacomo contributed to this report.