Private Cessna plane crashes off Latvia

A private Cessna jet crashed off the Latvian coast on Sunday evening, the Swedish rescue service said, after NATO dispatched planes to follow its erratic path.

The Austrian-registered Cessna 551 plane was flying from Jerez in southern Spain, from where it took off at 12:56 GMT with no destination set, according to the FlightRadar24 website. It filmed twice, in Paris and Cologne, before heading straight for the Baltic, passing near the Swedish island of Gotland. At 1737 GMT it was listed on the flight tracker as rapidly losing airspeed and altitude.

“We learned that the plane crashed (into the ocean) northwest of the town of Ventspils in Latvia,” said a spokesman for the Swedish rescue services. “He disappeared from radar.” German and Danish warplanes had earlier been sent to inspect the plane as it passed through those countries’ airspace but were unable to establish contact, said Johan Wahlstrom of the Swedish Maritime Administration.

“They couldn’t see anyone in the cockpit,” he said. The German newspaper Bild reported that a man, a woman and their two daughters were on board, without providing the information.

A Lithuanian Air Force helicopter was dispatched to the crash site for search and rescue at the request of neighboring Latvia, a Lithuanian Air Force spokesman said. . Latvia said it also sent ships to the scene. “Our ships are on their way to where the plane crash happened,” Liva Veita, a spokeswoman for the Latvian navy, told Reuters.

A Stena Line ferry traveling from Ventspils to Norvik in Sweden was also redirected to the crash site, according to the MarineTraffic website. The website also shows a Swedish search and rescue helicopter and aircraft at the site. Lithuanian Air Force spokesman said earlier that NATO fighter jets from NATO’s Baltic Air Policing Mission at Amari airfield in Estonia had took off to follow the plane, without giving further details.

The company registered as the plane’s owner in the Austrian Aircraft Register, Cologne-registered GG Rent, could not immediately be reached for comment.

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