Search for surviors of plane crash off Puerto Rico halted due to bad weather

February 11, 2009
Abram I. Bohrer

By María Miranda Sierra
Caribbean Net News Puerto Rico Correspondent

QUEBRADILLAS, Puerto Rico: Due to the rough waters and bad weather going through Puerto Rico over the past few days, the US Coast Guard, state police and the State of Emergency Administration staff halted the search Tuesday morning for survivors of a small plane that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean late Sunday.

The single engine Cessna 206 airplane was privately owned and was flying from the Dominican Republic when it crashed into the ocean near the city of Quebradillas located in the northern coast of the island. The missing 5 passengers and pilot have not been located and the cause of the crash is still under investigation.

Puerto Rico Police spokesman Manuel Gomez said that the remains of one man were recovered; however authorities have been forced to halt operations until Wednesday due to the heavy rain and big waves.

According to eye witnesses an explosion took place as the single-engine plane went down Sunday evening, Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad told reporters.

“Witnesses heard the sound of an engine struggling and seeing an explosion before the plane crashed about a half-mile off shore in the town of Quebradillas,” Castrodad said.

The privately owned Cessna 206 was flying from La Romana, Dominican Republic, to San Juan, according to Luis Luhring, president of the plane’s charter company, Tropical Aviation Corp.

The plane’s passengers were all prominent Puerto Rican business people, including Ralph Christiansen an insurance broker at Marsh Saldaña Inc. and the uncle of Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi’s wife. Also on the plane were businessmen Luis Lavergne, Luis Romero, Alberto Bachman, Karen Pizarro and the pilot Jorge Bringuier.

The group had traveled to the Dominican Republic over the weekend on a business trip.

Manuel Lecaroz, who had traveled with the group on Friday, said that he decided to not return to Puerto Rico Sunday night due to the bad weather. He said that he asked the other passengers, all of which were his friends, to stay in the Dominican Republic with him until the weather improved, however all of the passengers said they needed to get back to Puerto Rico as they had to go back to work on Monday.