Coast Guard continues response to downed plane near American Samoa

Hawaii-Pacific Coast Guard News
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa – Coast Guard and local agencies are continuing to search for a man who went missing during a plane crash approximately one mile from Pago Pago Tuesday night.

Search efforts for 58-year-old Babar Suleman continued throughout the day and suspended Wednesday night due to decreased visibility. The search resumed Thursday morning and will continue throughout the day.

Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu is currently coordinating search efforts with the HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, the American Samoa Marine Patrol, American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, a Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel and good Samaritan Tug Lillie.

American Samoa is currently under small craft and high surf advisories. Weather conditions will continue to be closely monitored.

Debris recovered from the crash includes sections of the fuselage and interior components of the plane.

Watchstanders are using the Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System to determine the search area. The Hercules crew dropped a Self-locating Data Marker Buoy to calculate current drift, water temperature and sea conditions. That information is then used in the SAROPS to better ascertain the optimal search area.

At 9:55 p.m. Tuesday, Coast Guard watchstanders at the JRCC received notification from the Regional Command Center in New Zealand that a Beechcraft Bonanza with two passengers aboard crashed into the water approximately one mile from shore. The RCC in New Zealand attained that information from the plane’s Emergency Locator Transmitter.

The Hercules crew departed Honolulu at 2:38 a.m. Wednesday and arrived at the crash site approximately eight hours later.

Wednesday’s total search area consisted of 275 nautical square miles. Thursday’s projected search area consists of 1,027 nautical square miles.

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