The Coast Guard, Navy and four other local and federal agencies have suspended their search for a downed aircraft off the coast of Florida.
In a late Saturday statement emailed to Navy Times, officials at the Coast Guard’s 7th District in Miami said that they called off rescue operations after canvassing approximately 1,400 square miles over the span of 56 hours.
“The suspension of an active search and rescue case is never an easy decision to make,” said Christopher Eddy, the district’s search and rescue mission coordinator, in the statement. “We always want the best-case scenario to happen and will continue to monitor for new information that could aid responders.”
Emergency operations began around 9:45 a.m. on Thursday, when the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center told the 7th District watchstanders that they had received a mayday call from a Piper PA-46 plane that was flying from Orlando to New Jersey with two people on board.
Officials ordered response boats from Coast Guard Station Mayport and the cutters Ridley and Sawfish to begin the search for a crashed plane and scrambled MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopters from Air Stations Savannah and Miami.
They were joined by an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Clearwater and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry medium range surveillance plane from Air Station Miami.
Coast Guard officials counted 21 aircraft sorties in the search.
Coast Guard officials said that the names of the passengers are being withheld until their family members are notified.
In better news Sunday, the Coast Guard saved 10 people in Texas, Hawaii and Little Creek, Virginia.
Alerted by Virginia Beach 911 that four people were injured when their 20-foot boat ran aground at the end of the east jetty in Little Creek, a crew from Coast Guard Sector Little Creek joined with local first responders to rescue them.
The 45-foot Response Boat-Medium arrived on the scene with crews from Virginia Beach Emergency Management, Virginia Marine Police and the Virginia Beach Fire Department, according to the Coast Guard.
They transferred the boaters to the Coast Guard vessel, which rushed them back to Station Little Creek where they were transported by paramedics to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in Norfolk.
“We greatly value our partnerships with our local emergency responders,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Robert Delano, the command duty officer at Sector Hampton Roads, in an email to Navy Times. “It’s through our continued cooperation that we can provide the best response and care for mariners in distress.”
Coast Guard crews diverted from training exercises to rush to two separate rescues off the islands of Maui and Oahu on Sunday.
At 9:55 a.m. Sunday, Station Maui watchstanders received a distress call from the captain of the tour boat Pride of Maui, reporting that a 69-year-old snorkeler appeared to be suffering a stroke at the Molokini Crater.
A Coast Guard 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew was training nearby, so they rushed to the Pride of Maui, retrieved the passenger and sailed to the Kihei boat ramp, where Maui County emergency responders were waiting to take him to a nearby hospital, according to Coast Guard officials.
Later Sunday morning, an Air Station Barbers Point MH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter teamed up with Honolulu City and County Fire Department and Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services personnel to respond to reports of a 14-foot capsized pleasure craft off Oahu’s Kaaawa Beach with three passengers onboard.
“Our aircrew was conducting training nearby when the call came in,” said Ensign Seth Gross, a Sector Honolulu command duty officer, in a statement emailed to Navy Times. “We received the call and the Dolphin crew was on scene within four minutes.”
They found the boaters clinging to the hull of their craft. The aircrew hoisted them into the Dolphin and flew them to waiting Honolulu City and County emergency responders at Kaneohe Bay’s Marine Corps Base Hawaii, where they received medical treatment.
And near Ingleside, Texas, a Station Port Aransas 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crew rescued two fishermen after their kayak capsized.
They didn’t require medical care, Coast Guard officials said.
Prine came to Navy Times after stints at the San Diego Union-Tribune and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He served in the Marine Corps and the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. His awards include the Joseph Galloway Award for Distinguished Reporting on the military, a first prize from Investigative Reporters & Editors and the Combat Infantryman Badge.