The U.S. Coast Guard suspended a massive search-and-rescue mission Thursday for two Mexican nationals still missing following the crash two days earlier of a Learjet that took off from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
“The United States Coast Guard and our partners express the deepest condolences to the friends and families who lost loved ones in this tragic incident,” said Capt. Todd Lutes, chief of incident management branch. “The Coast Guard will continue to assist the National Transportation Safety Board in their investigative efforts.”
The twin-engine Learjet plummeted 1,800 feet into the Atlantic just before 8 p.m. Tuesday only minutes after taking flight. The pilot and co-pilot of the Mexican-registered air ambulance had flown into Fort Lauderdale that afternoon carrying a patient from Costa Rica, and a two-person medical crew. They were headed back to Cozumel when the plane went down.
Before crashing, the pilot reported engine failure and tried to turn back for an emergency landing.
The bodies of a man and woman were found Tuesday night by rescue crews, and authorities identified the man Thursday as pilot Josué Buendía Moreno, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. They did not identify the woman, but only one, nurse Mariana González Isunza, was onboard.
Still missing: pilot Hiram Galván de la O and physician Fernando Senties Nieto.
The search will remain suspended “until new evidence is presented,” according to the Coast Guard.
Before calling off the search, crews had scoured a massive debris field, searching more than 4,000 square miles and recovering more than 1,000 pounds of wreckage. The National Transportation Safety Board is tasked with determining the cause of the crash.