US Coast Guard suspends search of aircraft that crashed near San Clemente Island

US COAST GUARD and other relief services search perimeter of suspected crash site. KPBS

Nicolle Generaux | Newsroom Editor

May 12, 2023

The United States Coast Guard made the decision to suspend its search for a missing plane and its passengers that crashed in the ocean about a mile off of San Clemente Island this Wednesday. Officials say that three were on board, but have yet to release the names of the passengers. 

The aircraft, a Phoenix Learjet, took off just before 8:00 in the morning from the Naval Air Station Point Mugu near Oxnard, which is about 60 miles northwest of Log Angeles. It is unknown to the public where the plane was heading, however the Naval Base confirmed that it was a non-military contract passenger aircraft that is normally used for shuttle flights. 

After only a couple minutes, the aircraft released an emergency broadcast signal and crashed into the Pacific. Later on that day, Coast Guard, Navy and U.S. Customs and Border Protection teams searched a suspected crash site, finding only a debris field.

GENERAL LOCATION of where Phoenix Learjet crashed May 10. Patch

The site is located a mile southwest of the Navy-owned San Clemente Island, although officials have yet to pinpoint exactly what the coordinates of it are. From there, relief services conducted a search spanning 334 square miles that lasted more than 24 hours. 

Unfortunately, the teams had no luck discovering the skeleton of the plane or its passengers – leaving officials with a difficult choice. In light of this, the U.S. Coast Guard suspended its efforts today at 9:00 AM: San Diego Coast Guard commander Captain Jim Spitler commented that “suspending search efforts is one of the hardest decisions to be made” but that after “aggressively searching” the perimeter of the suspected crash site for more than 24 hours, the active search was called off until “further information or developments occur.” 

“In the end I think it is the best decision that can be made at this time,” mentioned junior Christopher Pimentel Jr.,“it is important that we have trust and faith in our government to handle situations like this.” 

This tragedy is one of sixteen airplane accidents that resulted in (technically suspected) fatalities either on or off of the coast of San Clemente Island – the earliest dating back to 1935. 

Thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families and friends of the missing passengers.

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