KINGSTON, Jamaica – After scouring an expanse of white-capped waters off Jamaica for three days, rescuers lost hope of finding a prominent New York couple or recovering wreckage of their small plane that traveled on a ghostly journey last week after the pair was apparently incapacitated.
On Sunday, the Jamaican military and the U.S. Coast Guard both decided to suspend air-and-sea searches for Laurence and Jane Glazer, whose single-engine plane flew on its own for 1,700 miles Friday before running out of fuel and slamming into deep waters some 14 miles off Port Antonio on Jamaica's northeast coast.
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Todd Coggeshall, chief of response management, said the agency called off search-and-rescue operations with "extremely great care and deliberation." He said a decision is made to suspend a search only after the "area is saturated several times with a maximum number of assets, resources and crew effort, and persons in distress are still not located."
Later Sunday, Maj. Basil Jarrett said the Jamaica Defense Force ended its sea search after reassessing the diminishing probability of having any success. But he stressed that the Caribbean country's military "will be vigilant along the coastline to see if any debris washes up" in coming days. On Friday, crew of a Jamaican military plane photographed floating material they believed was consistent with a high-impact debris field, but it apparently sunk before it could be recovered at first light Saturday.
Jamaican rescuers on Sunday shut down an emergency operation center in Port Antonio, an off-the-beaten-track place with a smattering of luxury villas.
The next steps, if any, for locating the New York couple's remains or wreckage from their single-engine turboprop Socata TBM700 were not immediately clear. The Caribbean waters where the high-performance plane went down has depths of roughly 2,000 meters.
Jamaica Coast Guard Commander Antonette Wemyss-Gorman said it was "beyond our capacities locally" to recover wreckage at such depths.
But Leroy Lindsay, director general of Jamaica's civil aviation authority, said that French authorities have volunteered equipment and expertise is raising wreckage of the French-made plane if it is ever located on the sea floor.
The plane was carrying the Rochester real estate developer and his entrepreneur wife — both experienced pilots. During its eerie journey Friday, U.S. fighter pilots were launched to shadow the Glazers' unresponsive aircraft and they reported seeing the pilot slumped over and its windows frosting over.
Experts say cases of pilots becoming unresponsive while their planes wander the sky are unusual, with probably not much more than a handful of such incidents over the last decade.