2 feared dead as U.S. plane with unresponsive pilot crashes off Jamaica

Last Updated Sep 5, 2014 11:15 PM EDT

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- A private U.S. plane with an unresponsive pilot traveled more than 1,700 miles before crashing Friday into the ocean north of Jamaica, U.S. and Jamaican officials said. The pilot and his wife were both presumed dead.

"We can confirm that the plane has gone down," Maj. Basil Jarrett of the Jamaican Defense Force told CBS New.

He said the plane crashed about 14 miles northeast of Port Antonio. The Jamaican military sent two helicopters to the site as well as search and rescue teams and a fixed wing aircraft to investigate. A U.S. C-130 aircraft was also flying over the crash site and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter was on the way, the Coast Guard said.

Jarrett told reporters early Friday evening that an oil slick had been spotted in the water but there was no sign of any wreckage. The search was suspended after darkness fell but will resume at first light, he said.

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FlightAware.com

Two U.S. F-15 fighter jets had been following the plane after the pilot failed to respond to repeated contact attempts by air traffic controllers.

The plane took off at 8:45 a.m. EDT from the Greater Rochester International Airport in New York, according to local officials. Air traffic controllers were last able to contact the pilot of the Socata TBM700, a high-performance, single-engine turboprop, at 10 a.m. EDT, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said.

A prominent real estate developer and his wife were aboard the plane, their son said. Rick Glazer said Friday that his parents, Larry and Jane Glazer, were both licensed pilots. He said he couldn't confirm they were killed, adding, "We know so little."

Federal sources, however, told CBS News that both Glazers were presumed dead. Larry Glazer is believed to have been piloting the plane. It was not known whether there was anyone else on board.

The Glazers both loved flying. Larry Glazer, who owned a real estate firm called Buckingham Properties, was also president of the TBM Owners and Pilots Association.

"We've been to Europe and Alaska and, you know, it's just a fun thing that we share," Jane Glazer said in a 2013 interview.

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Jane and Larry Glazer are shown during a 2013 interview where they discussed their love of flying.
CBS News

Public officials who knew the Glazers issued condolence messages centered on their role helping revitalize Rochester.

"The Glazers were innovative and generous people who were committed to revitalizing downtown Rochester and making the city they loved a better place for all," said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "I offer my deepest condolences to the Glazers' family and friends during this difficult and trying time."

The pilot had filed a flight plan with the FAA to fly from Rochester to Naples, Florida.

On a recording made by LiveATC, a website that monitors and posts air traffic control audio recordings, the pilot can be heard saying, "We need to descend down to about (18,000 feet). We have an indication that's not correct in the plane." A controller replied, "Stand by."

After a pause, the controller told the pilot to fly at 25,000 feet. "We need to get lower," the pilot responded. "Working on that," the controller said.

Controllers then cleared the plane to descend to 20,000 feet, a command the pilot acknowledged. A couple minutes later, a controller radioed the plane by its tail number: "900 Kilo November, if you hear this transmission, ident" - identify yourself. There was no response.

According to FlightAware, the plane never carried out the last descent to 20,000 feet.

Two U.S. fighter jets were scrambled at 11:30 a.m. EDT and followed the plane until it reached Cuban airspace, when they peeled off, said Preston Schlachter, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command & US Northern Command. FlightAware showed the plane over the Caribbean south of Cuba at about 2 p.m.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported that the fighter jet pilots who followed the unresponsive plane initially saw the pilot slumped over. But then the cockpit windows frosted over -- signs of cabin decompression and hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation.

The incident is the second time in less than a week that private pilot has become unresponsive during a flight. On Saturday, a pilot lost consciousness and his plane drifted into restricted airspace over the nation's capital. Fighter jets were also launched in that case and stayed with the small aircraft until it ran out of fuel and crashed Saturday into the Atlantic.

In 1999, the pilots of a Learjet carrying professional golfer Payne Stewart from Orlando, Florida, to Texas became unresponsive. The plane took a turn and wander all the way to South Dakota before running out of fuel and crashing into a field west of Aberdeen. Stewart and five others on board were killed. An investigation by the National Transportation blamed the accident on depressurization.