Small private plane crashes in Baltic Sea off Latvian coast
A small private plane with four people on board has crashed over the Baltic Sea, off the Latvian coast, according to a report by Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
The Austrian-owned private plane was due to land in Cologne, Germany, but continued flying through Swedish airspace towards the Gulf of Riga.
The Cessna 551, which was built in 1979, took off from the southern Spain at 14:57 local time on Sunday. During the flight, the pilot reported a problem related to cabin pressure, according to German daily Bild. Bild also reported that, in addition to the pilot, a man, woman and their daughter were on board the plane.
Air traffic control officers at Cologne airport, where the plane was due to land, attempted to contact the pilot as it passed by, receiving no reply. Instead, German, and then Danish, fighter jets were sent to monitor the plane as it continued on a direct course over the Baltic Sea. However, no one was sighted in the cockpit.
After passing Cologne shortly before 19:00, the small aircraft continued over the German island of Rügen, then flew into Swedish airspace, where it passed south of Gotland (Sweden) and continued towards the Gulf of Riga.
At 19.35 Austrian time (20.35 Estonian time - ed.) the aircraft began to lose altitude and speed, with the Sea and Air Rescue Center (JRCC) reporting that it had disappeared from the radar shortly before 20:00 (21:00 Estonian time).
A Swedish rescue helicopter subsequently discovered the plane's wreckage four miles northwest of Venstpils, Latvia, assessing that there were likely to be no survivors.
Both the Swedish and Latvian armed forces are involved in the operation, but preferred not to comment at this early stage of proceedings.
According to a report in the Latvian edition of Delfi, a spokesperson for the Lithuanian Air Force told Reuters that a Lithuanian helicopter had also been sent to the crash site as part of a search and rescue operation at Latvia's request.
Latvian navy vessels and the Stena Line ferry, which was traveling from Ventspils to the Swedish port of Norvik, were also on the way to the crash site, Reuters reported.
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Editor: Michael Cole