4 dead after medical plane crashes near St. Maarten

A medical emergency flight crashed near the Dutch Caribbean territory of St. Maarten on Saturday, killing all four aboard, including a honeymooning cruise ship passenger from Cyprus who suffered heart trouble, officials said.

The plane was carrying the tourist to the French island of Martinique early Saturday for specialized cardiac care, according to a nurse at the St. Maarten Medical Center who declined to be identified because she was not authorized to release the information.

A Cyprus Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of ministry regulations, identified the victim as Panagiotis Vryonides of Nicosia and said he was around 30 years old. The official also said that a diplomat from Cyprus' embassy in Washington D.C. will travel to Martinique, where Vryonides' wife is located, to offer support.

The government of Martinique said in a statement that a doctor and nurse also were aboard the plane. They were identified as Jean-Michel Dudouit and Gerard Omere of the Pierre Zobda Quitman University Hospital Center in Fort-de-France, director Daniel Riam said.

The Piper Cheyenne III, owned by Transports Aeriens Intercaraibes, crashed four minutes after takeoff from L'Esperance Airport in St. Martin, the French territory that shares an island with St. Maarten, according to Martinique's government.

Martinique officials said they had originally sent another plane that experienced mechanical problems upon arriving at Princess Juliana airport in St. Maarten and it was replaced by the plane that crashed.