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Missionary Plane Vanishes In Venezuela

A mission pilot from northern Alabama whose father died doing similar work three decades ago has been missing more than three weeks along with six others since their small plane likely crashed in the dense jungles of Venezuela, the pilot's mother said.

Nytta Norton of Bryant said Bob Norton, 48, director of Adventist Medical Aviation Venezuela, was flying the plane. Also aboard was his wife, Neiba, a registered nurse, two adults accompanying two sick children, and missionary Gladis Zerpa, who taught at La Gran Sabana Adventist School in the Venezuelan state of Bolivar.

She said her son "grew up with a missionary spirit and was carrying on for his dad," Elwin, who was killed while piloting a mission plane that crashed 29 years ago in Mexico.

Venezuela's National Civil Aviation Institute and several air rescue groups searched for three days after the plane was reported missing Feb. 16, she said.

Nytta Norton told The Huntsville Times for a Thursday story that she received a call from a radioman who had been tracking her son's flight. He said the aircraft was missing and a search had begun.

She said the plane had departed from Carun and there was radio communication, but it couldn't be determined if the plane was in trouble. She said the weather was bad and it is believed the plane went down.

She doubted they would be found alive.

"It's all in God's hands," she said. "And I'm happy to leave it at that."

A telephone message left Thursday by The Associated Press at Nytta Norton's home was not immediately returned.

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