Fighter jets were dispatched by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) on Friday to escort an unresponsive small aircraft flying over the Atlantic Ocean, but the plane continued and eventually crashed near Jamaica, officials said.
This plane, a small Socata TBM-700, originally took off from Rochester, N.Y., with a flight plan that said it was heading to Naples, Fla. It had departed from Greater Rochester International Airport on Friday just before 8:30 a.m. and was scheduled to land at Naples Municipal Airport at noon.
The plane’s pilot stopped responding to radio calls at 10 a.m., a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration said. Air traffic controllers with the FAA continued to track the plane as it flew south, passing by the southern coast of Florida at an altitude of about 25,000 feet.
The unresponsive plane crashed into the ocean about 14 miles off the coast of Port Antonio, Jamaica, at about 2:15 p.m., according to the FAA. The agency said it was unable to confirm the number of people on board.
NORAD said that the situation may have involved hypoxia, or a low level of oxygen.
The plane belonged to Larry Glazer, a Rochester developer, according to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. In the hours after the plane crashed, officials in the city and state offered their condolences and confirmed that Glazer and his wife, Jane, were on the plane.
“I join the residents of Rochester during this difficult week in mourning the loss of Larry and Jane Glazer in today’s tragic plane crash,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “The Glazers were innovative and generous people who were committed to revitalizing downtown Rochester and making the city they loved a better place for all. I offer my deepest condolences to the Glazers’ family and friends during this difficult and trying time.”
Attempts to reach Buckingham Properties, Glazer’s real estate development and property management company in Rochester, were unsuccessful. The company, which Glazer co-founded in 1970, owns or manages dozens of properties spanning more than 9 million square feet in the larger Rochester region, according to its site.
— Lauren Petracca (@LaurenPetracca) September 5, 2014
“It is difficult to put into words how much Larry Glazer has meant to our community,” Rochester Mayor Lovely A. Warren and City Council president Loretta C. Scott said in a joint statement. “Larry worked hard to return a sense of vitality and excitement to our Center City. His efforts helped to lift our spirits and restore our sense of optimism. He has been a treasured friend and partner.”
After it was unable to communicate with the plane on Friday morning, the FAA contacted NORAD, which said it dispatched two F-15 fighter jets to investigate the aircraft at 11:30 a.m. These pilots saw that the unresponsive plane’s windows were frosted when they approached, a spokesman for NORAD said.
The U.S. Coast Guard has begun a search and rescue mission in the area where the plane crashed, according to NORAD. The Coast Guard, which said three people were reportedly on the plane, said it was sending a C-130 from Clearwater, Fla., to look for the aircraft along with Jamaican authorities.
Shortly before 1:30 p.m., NORAD said that the unresponsive plane entered Cuban airspace, so the U.S. fighter jets broke off. NORAD said that its two F-15 fighter jets returned to their base after 2 p.m. for refueling, while NORAD used radar to monitor the unresponsive aircraft as it left Cuban airspace.
The plane from New York is the second U.S. aircraft to become unresponsive and crash in the ocean in less than a week. Last Saturday, NORAD sent two F-16 fighter jets to respond to a plane that took off in Wisconsin and was heading to Manassas, Va., near Washington, D.C. The plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, about 140 miles away from Washington.
NORAD, which monitors airspace over the U.S. and Canada, also sent two CF-18 fighter jets to escort a plane flying to Toronto last week. That aircraft landed safely and the Canadian fighter jets returned to their base.
Related: More about the Socata TBM-700.
This post has been updated. First published: 1:13 p.m. Last updated: 5:44 p.m.