Coast Guard Suspends Search for 3 Missing After Navy Contracted Learjet Crash

May 11, 2023 6:35 PM
Phoenix Air Learjet 35 approaching Naval Air Station North Island in 2009. Photo via Wikipedia

The Coast Guard suspended its search for three people who were aboard a Phoenix Air Learjet that crashed near San Clemente Island, Calif., the service announced Thursday.

The Coast Guard, Navy, Air Force and Customs and Border Protection helped look for the crew and debris from the Navy-contracted plane that took off from Point Mugu Naval Air Station, according to a Coast Guard release. The service narrowed it down to 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,” Capt. Jim Spitler, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego, said in the release. “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the missing passengers.”

The Phoenix Air Learjet crashed into the Pacific Ocean around 7:55 a.m. Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times reported. Coast Guard arrived an hour later. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash.

Another Phoenix Air Learjet, who began looking for survivors, found debris from the wreckage Wednesday, according to the Coast Guard release. USS San Diego (LPD-22) diverted to help with the search. The Navy also provided an MH-Romeo helicopter from the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM-35).

The Coast Guard sent an MH-60 Jayhawk, as well as cutter USCGC Robert Ward (WPC-1130). Air Force sent a C-130 and multiple assets from its 68th Rescue Squadron.

Phoenix Air flies a fleet of modified Learjets “deploying around the world providing real-time adversarial services and threat training,” according to the company’s website.

The Navy uses companies like Phoneix for a variety of training, including simulating a cruise missile threat, towing targets and simulating electronic attack and radar and communication jamming.

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
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