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Baltic crash: Latvia searches for mystery Cessna plane

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By Laurence Peter

BBC News

Screen grab from FlightRadar24 websiteImage source, FlightRadar24

Wreckage and oil have been found where a private Cessna plane crashed into the Baltic Sea off Latvia’s coast after a mysterious flight from southern Spain.

The Cessna, registered in Vienna, had been due to land in Cologne, Germany, but instead headed out into the Baltic. Four people were on board, reports say.

German and Danish fighter jets were sent to follow the plane and later a Swedish helicopter searched for it.

Latvia now has three small ships and a helicopter at the crash site.

“We found three parts of the plane, we think – experts will have to say,” the Latvian maritime search and rescue service (MRCC) told the BBC.

Spokesperson Liva Veita said there was no sign of the people on board the Cessna 551, which crashed on Sunday. She also confirmed earlier reports that oil had been seen there.

She said two small Latvian naval ships and a coastguard vessel were at the crash site, north-west of Ventspils, as well as a Latvian border guards helicopter.

Quick Air, an air charter company based in Cologne, has told Reuters news agency that the Cessna belongs to the company’s owner Karl-Peter Griesemann.

But the nationality of those on board at the time has not been confirmed. According to Spain’s Efe news agency, the four were German.

A Danish ferry and two helicopters – from Lithuania and Sweden – conducted a search in vain in the Baltic on Sunday.

Earlier, Nato pilots and Swedish officials tracking the plane saw no-one in the cockpit.

Image source, Wikimedia Commons

Image caption,

A Cessna 551 Citation photographed in Luxembourg (archive pic)

“The aircraft was flying from Spain to Cologne, but during the flight the aircraft changed its flight route,” the Latvian Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement.

“Air traffic controllers were unable to communicate with the aircraft’s crew,” it said, adding that the Cessna 551 was registered in Austria – but the owner was in Spain.

The FlightRadar24 data tracking website says the plane took off from the Spanish city of Jerez de la Frontera at 12:56 GMT.

At 17:37 it was listed on FlightRadar24 as losing speed and altitude.

German newspaper Bild says the plane reported cabin pressure problems after take-off and contact was lost after it cleared the Iberian peninsula.

The aircraft crashed “when it ran out of fuel”, Sweden’s search and rescue operation leader, Lars Antonsson, told AFP news agency.

Mr Antonsson said rescuers had “no explanation at all” and could “only speculate” about what had happened. “But they [the people on board] were clearly incapacitated,” he said.

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