DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The
U.S. Coast Guard says it has not given up its search for a Daytona Beach couple whose plane crashed into the ocean during a trip back home from the Bahamas on Monday.
Al and Kathleen Van Nimwegen owned an auto repair business in Sanford and were both experienced pilots.
They had made the flight from the Bahamas to Daytona Beach hundreds of times before.
According to a friend, the couple works Monday through Friday and fly to a second home in the Bahamas almost every weekend.
The couple reportedly left their home in the Bahamas on Monday around noon, after adjusting their flight plan because of bad weather in the area.
Not long after that, the Federal Aviation Administration notified the Coast Guard that they'd lost communication with a plane carrying two passengers on board.
A search was mounted and a helicopter crew located a debris field along the route that the Van Nimwegens would have been taking from Marsh Island in Abaco to the Spruce Creek fly-in community where they lived near Daytona Beach.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it found some wreckage while searching for survivors Tuesday morning.
The majority of residents at a fly-in residential park in Port Orange are experienced flyers.
Louise Agin said her neighbors Al and Kathleen are no different.
"At least 50 out of the 52 weeks (per year) they did that trip. They are very experienced," said Agin.
"We hold out hope that they're going to be fine but it doesn't appear as though there's going to be a good ending to this," said Agin.
Friends told WFTV the couple has two planes, but was flying a family member's 1983 Beechcraft B36.
Records show it's registered to Van Auto Incorporated in New Jersey, where the couple was originally from.
"They've been doing it every weekend ever since I've known them. They might miss the odd weekend, but generally it's every weekend," said friend Keith Rogers. "No one has heard from them and there was a downed plane, and they did leave the island at noon today, so I guess it's pretty much a given that they are the victims of the crash."
The Coast Guard has not confirmed any deaths or the make of the plane, but friends from the Bahamas said they fear the worst.
WFTV asked for the communications between air traffic control and the plane, but an FAA spokesperson said that request will take days to process.
None of the employees at the Van Nimwegen's auto body shop in Sanford would comment, but they did give WFTV a statement from the family, saying they're still holding out hope their loved ones return home safely.