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3 missing after aircraft crashes off Southern California coast

Search and rescue crews have found wreckage near where a U.S. Navy contractor’s aircraft with three people aboard crashed Wednesday morning off San Clemente Island, according to officials.

Crews found a debris field a mile southwest of the Navy-owned island, near where a Phoenix Learjet plunged into the Pacific Ocean at about 7:55 a.m., according to Levi Read, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson. Coast Guard officials arrived at the scene at about 8:55 a.m.

“That is the last known location of the aircraft that we had suspected crashed,” Read said. “We are in an active search situation at this point for the three people on board.”

An MH 60 Jayhawk helicopter was searching the waters, and the U.S. Navy and U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel were also aiding in the search and rescue efforts, Read said. The National Transportation Safety Board announced Wednesday evening that it would investigate the crash.

Read said Fireside Partners has been hired to contact the family members of the three people on board the Phoenix Learjet, which was not a military plane.

For the record:

1:25 p.m. May 10, 2023An earlier version of this story said the Phoenix Learjet was owned by Fireside Partners out of Delaware. The aircraft is not owned by Fireside Partners.

Drew Verbis, a spokesperson for Naval Base Ventura County, said a non-military contract passenger aircraft departed from Naval Air Station Point Mugu and lost contact with air traffic controllers about a mile from San Clemente Island, which lies about 65 miles off the coast of San Diego.

Verbis said the Navy has small aircraft that are contracted for shuttle flights similar to a bus. Verbis said the aircraft’s mission and destination were unknown, but he said it was likely related to travel or transportation.

The identities of the three people on board haven’t been confirmed.

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