After a 50-hour search for a plane that went missing over the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. Coast Guard suspended efforts to locate the plane and its passengers Tuesday.
The Coast Guard and volunteers searched 2,016 square miles after the plane and its three passengers went missing Sunday, Coast Guard spokesperson Michael De Nyse said.
Jasper Jerrels of Brooksville, Florida, his 17-year-old son, Dylan, and Jerrels’ fiance, Hue Singletary, were flying to Cedar Key, Florida. It was a trip Jasper Jerrels had made many times, said Juday Bason, Jerrels’ cousin.
Jerrels, 65, was scheduled to land his Piper Cherokee aircraft Sunday afternoon but never showed, De Nyse said. On Tuesday, Jasper Jerrels’ body was found and later identified by the Levy County Sheriff’s Office. Debris and an aircraft seat matching the description of the plane’s interior were also found, but there was no sign of the other two passengers.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family at this time,” he said. “If we get any information that could lead us to where we think these people are — and alive — that
opens up a whole new avenue of search possibilities,” he said.
Bason said although Jerrels has been flying for about 20 years, he hadn’t been flying very much recently after the death of one of his daughters.
UF student Mohammed Bhadelia, 19, said he was surprised after hearing that the plane went missing because it’s something that happens so infrequently.
When he was a junior in high school, he began to train for his pilot’s license, he said. He remembers learning how to manage a plane in a dangerous situation, but he’s not sure what he would do if he were in one.
“If I was up there and something started going wrong and I couldn’t fix anything, I’d just be confused,” the UF management sophomore said.
Although the Coast Guard stopped its search, local rescue teams continue to look for Jerrels’ son and Singletary in Levy County, Bason said.
“We’ve got a lot of people praying,” she said. “He was a very good person with a very close- knit family. He will be missed.”
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