Private plane bound for Germany crashes off Latvian coast | News | DW

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NATO fighter jets were dispatched on Sunday evening after a private jet carrying four people veered off course and crashed off the Latvian coast, authorities said.

What do we know so far?

The Austrian-registered Cessna 551 aircraft was flying from Jerez in southern Spain to Cologne-Bonn airport in western Germany.

german newspaper Image reported that the plane, which was carrying the pilot, a man, a woman and a child, had reported cabin pressure issues to air traffic control.

Image said radio contact was lost as the plane left the Iberian Peninsula.

The plane flew erratically at times, circling twice near Paris, France and Cologne.

It then headed towards the Baltic Sea, passing near the Swedish island of Gotland, according to the FlightRadar24 website.

At 7:37 p.m. local time (1737 GMT), the aircraft was listed on the flight tracker as rapidly losing speed and altitude.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the plane crashed into the sea off Ventspills just before 8:00 p.m.

Latvia’s civil aviation agency said its air traffic controllers tried but were unable to make contact with the plane.

Fighter jets from Germany, Denmark and Sweden were dispatched to try to establish visual contact with the crew “but they did not see anyone”, the Swedish operations manager told AFP. search and rescue, Lars Antonsson.

He said the plane flew relatively steadily until it approached the Latvian coast, where it rapidly lost altitude and crashed “when it ran out of fuel”.

Occupants “clearly incapable”

Antonsson said “No human remains were found” and although it is unclear what caused the plane to swerve “they were clearly incapacitated on board”.

Aviation safety expert Hans Kjäll told Swedish news agency TT that cabin pressure issues could have caused passengers to lose consciousness.

This can happen quickly, especially at altitudes where small planes are used, he added.

The Swedish coastguard said it discovered traces of oil on the water and smaller debris.

Helicopter, ships head for the crash scene

A Lithuanian Air Force helicopter was dispatched to the crash site, a spokesman for the country’s military said.

The Latvian navy said it sent ships to the scene.

A Stena Line ferry traveling from Ventspils to Norvik in Sweden was also redirected to the crash site, according to the MarineTraffic website.

The website also showed a Swedish search and rescue helicopter and aircraft at the site.

The company registered as the owner in the Austrian aircraft register, GG Rent registered in Cologne, could not immediately be reached for comment.

If confirmed, it would be the sixth time a so-called ghost plane – where those on board were unable to function – has crashed since 1980.

Four of the previous examples featured smaller planes, but the fifth involved a Helios Airlines commercial jetliner traveling from Larnaca, Cyprus, to Prague in the Czech Republic.

The Boeing 737 crashed in August 2005 near Grammatiko, Greece, killing all 121 people on board.

mm/kB (AFP, Reuters)

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