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Press Release | May 11, 2023

Coast Guard suspends search for 3 after plane crash near San Clemente Island

District 11

SAN DIEGO — The Coast Guard has suspended its active search for three people after a report of an aircraft emergency and a debris field was located approximately one mile southwest of San Clemente Island, Wednesday morning.

The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection all provided search assets and searched a combined 334 square miles in the vicinity of the downed Phoenix Air Learjet with negative results.

“Suspending search efforts is one of the hardest decisions to be made, but after aggressively searching the area around San Clemente Island for more than 24 hours using land, air and surface assets with negative results, the decision was made to suspend the active search until further information or developments occur,” said Capt. Jim Spitler, commander, U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego. “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the missing passengers.”

Watchstanders at the Coast Guard’s Joint Harbor Operations Center in San Diego received the initial report of a downed aircraft, at 7:53 a.m., from Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility (FACSFAC) San Diego, reporting an aircraft emergency aboard a Phoenix Air Learjet with three people on board. FACSFAC reported that the aircraft didn’t make it back to the San Clemente Island runway.

The Phoenix Air Learjet was reportedly contracted by the U.S. Navy and took off from Point Mugu Naval Air Station.

Another Phoenix Air Learjet was in the area and immediately began searching for possible survivors; they located a debris field one mile southwest of San Clemente Island. A Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations aircraft and the USS San Diego diverted after hearing the emergency broadcast and began searching the area as well.

A MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew from Coast Guard Sector San Diego and the crew aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Robert Ward, a 154-foot Fast Response Cutter homeported in Los Angeles/Long Beach, were launched and led the search. Additionally, a U.S. Air Force C-130, multiple U.S. Air Force land and surface assets from 68th Rescue Squadron, and a U.S. Navy MH-60 Romeo helicopter from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM-35) were launched and assisted in the search.