Coast Guard suspends search response to plane crash

From staff report

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. — The Coast Guard suspended its search at 11:30 a.m. today for the pilot of a plane that crashed Saturday approximately 51 miles southeast of Chincoteague Island.

A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules airplane crew searched until sunset Saturday and the crew of Coast Guard Cutter Beluga searched through the night until this morning for wreckage or any sign of the pilot aboard the downed aircraft.

A good Samaritan fisherman in the vicinity of the crash recovered a wheel and an engine cowling thought to belong to the crashed plane and turned it over to the crew of Cutter Beluga. Both items are scheduled to be turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Watchstanders at the Coast Guard 5th District in Portsmouth received notification at about 2:40 p.m. Saturday that the single-engine Cirrus aircraft with only the pilot aboard failed to land at Manassas Regional Airport as scheduled. Instead, the Cirrus remained at an altitude of approximately 13,000 feet and continued into restricted air space in the vicinity of Washington, D.C.

Two U.S. NORAD F-16 aircraft came alongside the Cirrus to investigate and observed the pilot to be unconscious in the cockpit.

The F-16 airmen escorted the Cirrus on its course over the Eastern Shore of Virginia until it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Coast Guard launched an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew and an HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Air Station Elizabeth City and the crew of Cutter Beluga, homeported in Virignia Beach.