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Search suspended for missing aircraft near San Clemente Island

A Coast Guard helicopter lands at the San Diego Coast Guard Air Station, Feb. 23, 2017.
Katie Schoolov
A Coast Guard helicopter lands at the San Diego Coast Guard Air Station, Feb. 23, 2017.

The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended its search of the ocean near San Clemente Island for a downed plane with three people aboard, authorities announced Thursday.

Officials said they searched 334 square miles and found no signs of any survivors after the Phoenix Air Learjet went missing Wednesday morning about a mile southwest of San Clemente Island.

"Suspending search efforts is one of the hardest decisions to be made, but after aggressively searching the area around San Clemente Island for more than 24 hours using land, air and surface assets with negative results, the decision was made to suspend the active search until further information or developments occur," said Capt. Jim Spitler, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego. "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the missing passengers."


Watchstanders at the Coast Guard's Joint Harbor Operations Center in San Diego received the initial report of a downed aircraft, at 7:53 a.m. Wednesday from Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility San Diego, reporting an aircraft emergency aboard a Phoenix Air Learjet with three people on board, the Coast Guard reported.

"FACSFAC reported that the aircraft didn't make it back to the San Clemente Island runway," the Coast Guard said in a statement. "The Phoenix Air Learjet was reportedly contracted by the U.S. Navy and took off from Point Mugu Naval Air Station."

According to the Coast Guard, another Phoenix Air Learjet was in the area and immediately began searching for possible survivors, and a debris field was found one mile southwest of San Clemente Island.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations aircraft and the USS San Diego diverted after hearing the emergency broadcast and began searching the area as well, the Coast Guard reported.

Also, an MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew from Coast Guard Sector San Diego and the crew aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Robert Ward, a 154-foot Fast Response Cutter homeported in Los Angeles/Long Beach, were launched and led the search.


Additionally, a U.S. Air Force C-130, multiple U.S. Air Force land and surface assets from 68th Rescue Squadron, and a U.S. Navy MH-60 Romeo helicopter from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron were launched and assisted in the search.

The area near San Clemente Island, where the aircraft was reported down is considered part of Los Angeles County, and is south of Catalina Island.