A prominent real estate developer and his wife were aboard an unresponsive private plane which crashed off the east coast of Jamaica on Friday, officials have confirmed.
The plane, apparently flew for 1,700 miles without the guidance of a pilot, and veered far off its course towards southwest Florida. The incident triggered a US security alert that saw it flanked by two fighter jets before it apparently ran out of fuel and crashed just after 2pm EDT 14 milles northeast of Port Antonio,Major Basil Jarrett of the Jamaican Defense Force said.
Larry and Jane Glazer, both licensed pilots, were on the flight, their son Rick Glazer said on Friday. He said he could not confirm if they were killed, adding we "know so little."
Mr Glazer, head of the Buckingham Properties development firm, was believed to have been flying the single-engine turboprop Socata TBM700 he owned from Rochester to Florida. Air traffic controllers lost contact with the plan after 10am, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a statement.
Buckingham's website quips that "Larry spends some of his spare time on the ground — gardening around his house with his wife, Jane; and some in the sky — flying his plane."
Glazer was also president of the TBM Owners and Pilots Association and active in Rochester civic affairs.
The Jamaican military have since sent two aircraft and a diving team to investigate the area where the plane crashed, said Mr Jarrett.
A US aircraft is also flying over the crash site, while a US Coast Guard cutter is travelling to the area, according to Guard Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios.
"Our team should have arrived at the scene by now, but we have nothing further on whether or not there are survivors," he added.
Search and rescue teams, including a military plane and a helicopter, were dispatched to the crash site.
“We can confirm that the plane has gone down,” he said. There was no immediate information about the people on board.
The Socata TBM700 had taken off at 8.45am EDT (1.30pm BST) from the Greater Rochester Airport in New York, according to local officials.
The pilot had issued a flight plan with the FAA to fly from Rochester to Naples, Florida. At 11:30am, fighter jets were scrambled and followed the plane until it reached Cuban airspace, when they peeled off, said Preston Schlachter, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command & US Northern Command.
FlightAware, an aviation tracking website, showed the plane over the Caribbean south of Cuba at about 2 pm EDT.
The incident is the second time in less than a week that private pilot has become unresponsive during a flight.
On Saturday, a pilot lost consciousness and his plane drifted into restricted airspace over the nation's capital.
Fighter jets were also launched in that case and stayed with the small aircraft until it ran out of fuel and crashed Saturday into the Atlantic.
Incidents where pilots become unresponsive while their planes wander the sky are unusual, with no more than a handful of such incidents over the last decade, said aviation safety expert John Goglia.
Sometimes the incidents are due to a pilot becoming incapacitated by a heart attack or stroke, but more often the problem is insufficient cabin pressurization that causes the pilot and any passengers to pass out, he said. It is unknown if cabin pressure was linked to Friday's crash.
In 1999, the pilots of a Learjet carrying professional golfer Payne Stewart from Orlando, Florida, to Texas became unresponsive. The plane took a turn and wander all the way to South Dakota before running out of fuel and crashing into a field west if Aberdeen. Stewart and five others on board were killed. An NTSB investigation blamed the accident on depressurisation.
Additional reporting by PAReuse content