The three people who were on a Navy contractor’s plane that went down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Southern California on Wednesday morning have been named, the company that owned the plane said in a statement Friday.
Phoenix Air Group named them as Captain Eric Tatman of Marietta, Georgia, 1st Officer Spencer Geerlings of Newnan, Georgia, and systems expert Shane Garner of Taylorsville, Georgia. All three worked on the flight crew. Nobody said how old they were or anything else about them.
In a statement, the company said, “The entire Phoenix Air Family is saddened by the loss of our friends and coworkers.”
The company said that recovery attempts are underway.
The company also said that two Learjet planes owned and flown by Phoenix Air were taking part in a U.S. Navy training drill on Wednesday morning. A Coast Guard representative told CBS News that the plane had taken off from Point Mugu, which is part of Naval Base Ventura County and is about 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
The tweet below confirms the news:
The three people who were aboard a plane used by a Navy contractor that crashed in the Pacific Ocean off Southern California on Wednesday morning have been identified. https://t.co/ol8mfMpPCQ
— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 12, 2023
Both planes were “flying in a military restricted area as part of a carefully planned series of flight profiles” to help the naval fleet. Phoenix Air said that the other plane landed safely.
The U.S. Coast Guard first heard about the Learjet crash just before 8 a.m. PT, about a mile southwest of San Clemente Island. The U.S. Navy owns San Clemente Island, which is about 80 miles west of San Diego.
In a tweet Wednesday night, the National Transportation Safety Board said that it was looking into the crash of the Gates Learjet 36A. Not right away, the names of the three missing people or information about how they were connected to the Navy were made public. Investigations are still going on.
It wasn’t clear what happened in the crash. The Coast Guard says that the first word from the Navy’s Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility, which handles offshore air traffic control, was that the Learjet had an emergency and couldn’t get back to the runway on San Clemente Island.
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The Coast Guard, Navy, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Air Force stopped searching on Thursday, according to a message from the Coast Guard. Officials said that the search area was 334 square miles.
The U.S. Navy and other parts of the Department of Defense have hired Phoenix Air to help them train for ready for more than 20 years, the company said.
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