Coast Guard suspends search for 2 men in Gulf

YANKEETOWN, Fla. – The Coast Guard has suspended its search for two men 20-miles southwest of Yankeetown, at 5:40 p.m., Tuesday, pending further developments.

Darien Peckham, 35, of Tampa, Fla., and Zachary Schlitt, 28, of West Palm Beach, Fla., were in a single-engine, fixed-wing Beechcraft airplane (tail number N945T) en-route from Tallahassee, Fla., to Vandenberg Airport in Tampa, Fla., when air-traffic controllers in Jacksonville, Fla., reported to the Coast Guard that the plane dropped off the radar and had crashed into the Gulf of Mexico at about 6:45 p.m. Sunday.

Coast Guard rescue crews searched for more than 40 hours, covering a 2,800 square-mile area, roughly twice the size of Delaware, with no sign of Peckham, Schlitt or their aircraft. Two small debris fields were located within the search area, and among the debris was a seat and a flight bag containing aviation head phones.

Searching were:

  • A Coast Guard Station Yankeetown 27-foot response boat
  • A Coast Guard Station Sand Key 47-foot motor-life boat
  • An Air Station Clearwater, Fla., HH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter
  • An Air Station Clearwater HC-130 Hercules search plane
  • The Coast Guard Cutter Marlin, an 87-foot cutter homeported in Fort Myers, Fla.
  • A Coast Guard Auxiliary aircraft from Clearwater.

The weather conditions at the time of the crash were 10- to 12-foot seas with 20- to 25-knot winds and strong bands of thunderstorms. The water temperature is 72 degrees.

“The Coast Guard sends its heartfelt sympathy to the families involved in this case,” said Lt. Cmdr. Tim Haws, Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg’s Chief of Response. “After exhaustive search efforts we were unable to locate the missing pilots and the difficult decision was made to suspend our active search.”

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