The US coast guard said it had suspended its search for the wreckage of a small plane that was returning to Princeton, New Jersey, after officers spent most of the weekend looking for any sign of the Piper A-46 Malibu or its occupants.
“The suspension of an active search and rescue case is never an easy decision to make,” Christopher Eddy, search and rescue mission coordinator for the coast guard’s seventh district, said in a statement.
“We always want the best case scenario to happen and will continue to monitor for new information that could aid responders.”
Local media said the plane was being piloted by Peter Renzulli, 51, from Bridgewater, New Jersey, when it crashed in water off the coast of Jacksonville on Thursday morning. Also on board was Mr Renzulli’s 18-year-old son, Daniel, NJ.com reported.
Mr Renzulli a certified public accountant and adjunct professor at Rutgers University, had apparently recently completed 30 hours of advanced training in the aircraft.
A lawyer for the family, Justin Marchetta, said in a statement: “The family was devastated to learn that the aircraft could not be located. Peter and Daniel are accomplished pilots and their disappearance is heartbreaking.”
NJ.Com said the small plane, which was registered in Texas, had reached an altitude of 22,000 feet before descending quickly, according to aviation tracking service flightaware.com.
The coast guard said it used helicopters, aircraft and two cutters searched approximately 1,400 square miles over a period of 56 hours before the operation was called off.
The Federal Aviation Administration said plane crashed into water near Ponte Vedra Beach, about 18 miles south of Jacksonville, at around 9am on Thursday. It had taken off from Kissimmee Airport in Orlando, half an hour earlier.
“We ask that the privacy of the Renzulli family be respected at this difficult time and we ask that those following this story keep the Renzullis in their thoughts and prayers,” said Mr Marchetta.
“The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting an investigation, but it may be several months before all of the facts surrounding this incident are known.”
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