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Body parts and debris found in Baltic Sea after "ghost plane" crashes with prominent businessman, 3 others on board

Human remains and debris have been found in the Baltic Sea during a search operation off Latvia's coast where a private jet crashed in mysterious circumstances, likely killing all four occupants.

Karl-Peter Griesemann, a prominent German businessman, was aboard the plane with three others, a spokesperson for Quick Air, an air charter company based in Cologne, told Reuters on Monday. Local newspaper Express reported that Griesemann was the pilot and that he was with his wife, daughter and his daughter's boyfriend.

Lt. Cmdr. Peteris Subbota, head of the Latvian military's Marine Search and Rescue Coordination Centre, told The Associated Press that "remains of human bodies we believe to be associated with the crash" were found Tuesday during the search operation by Latvian coast guard vessels and underwater robots.

Air traffic controllers on Sunday lost contact with the Cessna Citation 551 jet, carrying four people, shortly after it took off from the Spanish city of Jerez. The aircraft, en route to Cologne, Germany, had earlier reported problems with cabin pressurization.

Several European countries scrambled fighter jets as the plane made its way across the continent, but were unable to see or contact anyone in the cockpit, German media reported, prompting tabloid Bild to call the aircraft a "ghost plane."

The Cessna disappeared from radar while it was flying off course over the Baltic Sea, apparently on autopilot, and later crashed into Latvian waters some 23 miles northwest of the port city of Ventspils.

The underwater search has not yet located the plane wreck, but Subbota said the chances of finding it should be reasonably good as the water is only up to 200 feet deep at the site and the seabed is accessible.

Navy spokeswoman Liva Veita told the AFP news agency that "11 pieces of airplane debris were found in the sea, including fragments of airplane seats and some possible baggage items like shoes."

"Several body parts were recovered," she said.

Media reports said the Austria-registered aircraft was built in 1979 and it didn't have a so-called black box that would help determine the cause of the crash.

According to data tracking website FlightRadar24, the plane took off from the Spanish city of Jerez de la Frontera at 2:56 p.m. Sunday. The plane flew over Swedish airspace in the Baltic Sea before crashing into the sea off Ventspils just before 8:00 p.m.

The BBC reported that Griesemann was a prominent member of the Cologne Carnival, and the carnival posted a tribute to him on its Facebook page.

German businessman Karl-Peter Griesemann, a leading supporter of the Cologne Carnival, is seen here in a carnival costume in 2004. Peter Bischoff/Getty Images
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