Searchers found one woman alive after a private plane flying newspapers between St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport and Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas disappeared U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad said Saturday afternoon. Castrodad identified the woman as Valerie Jackson, who was able to report to search and rescue personnel that there were also a woman and two men traveling aboard the aircraft when it crashed into the water.
“We are continuing to search for those three other people. We’re making a very aggressive effort before the weather moves in,” Castrodad said, referring to the anticipated arrival of Tropical Storm Rafael.
St. Thomas resident Frank Gazarek identified the pilot of the missing aircraft as Kirby Hodge.
Jackson was pulled from the water by crew of a Planning and Natural Resources Department boat at about 2 p.m. after the crew of a Coast Guard helicopter spotted her. She was transferred to waiting Emergency Medical Service staff.
He said the Coast Guard has a helicopter, plane and boats out searching an area six nautical miles in size. Additionally, the Planning boat is assisting in the search.
He said that once the storm arrives, the search will be suspended but the Coast Guard plans to resume it once the weather clears.
Castrodad said Virgin Islands-based aircraft and a C-130 Hurricane Hunter aircraft reported that debris was located off of Sail Rock.
V.I. Port Authority Acting Director David Mapp said in a press release the plane was believed to have crashed around 5 a.m. Castrodad said the Coast Guard got the report at 7:50 a.m.
Anyone with information related to this incident should contact the Coast Guard Sector San Juan Command Center at 787-289-2041.