Alan and Kathleen Van Nimwegen of Sanford, Florida went missing after their small aircraft crashed on its’ way back from the Bahamas, according to news reports. Rescue efforts are uderway even as authorities work to determine the cause of the plane accident. It is not yet known whether authorities are considering the possiblility of an airplane malfunction.
“The families of Alan Van Nimwegen and Kathleen Van Nimwegen hold out hope for [their] return. Alan and Kathleen were en route from the Bahamas to Florida, when radar contact with their airplane was lost during bad weather,” a statement released by the couple’s family on Tuesday reportedly said. “As of this release, US Coast Guard search and rescue operations are continuing in the area of the last radar contact with their plane.”
Sources indicate that the Van Nimwegens often travel from their home in a fly-in community in Spruce Creek (which is equipped with its’ own airport) out to the Bahamas for weekend trips in their small single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza BE36. Both Alan and Kathleen are licensed pilots and have lived in the community for over 15 years. During the week, the couple operates their business, Seminole Paint and Body Shop in Sanford. Now, rescue efforts are scouring the ocean 15 miles around Great Harbor City.
The U.S. Coast Guard, the Royal Bahamas Defense Force, and Bahamian Air and Sea Rescue have teamed forces to try to locate the couple. They have yet to confirm the location of the Bonanza, although debris was apparently found near the Berry Islands (near Great Harbor Cay in the Bahamas). While debris have been located, there is still no sign of the couple.
Soon after the Van Nimwegens took off from Marsh Harbor, Bahamas at around 9:00 in the morning on Monday, authorities lost contact with their aircraft. Some sources, including the Van Nimwegen’s family’s statement, suggest that stormy weather may have played a factor in the crash. “They were not rank amateurs. They were both very competent,” a neighbor of the couple said of their piloting skills.
The Van Nimwegen’s disappearance comes in the wake of another Bahamas small aircraft plane crash. On Saturday, two unnamed men were forced to crash-land their small plane at South Bimini, Bahamas’ airport. The 45-year-old pilot, a Bahamas native, was reportedly flying a 34-year-old American from Fort Lauderdale to New Providence when the crash occurred. Luckily, neither the pilot nor the passenger was injured in the crash.
Saturday’s accident, which occurred at around 3:00 in the afternoon, was apparently caused by engine problems. The type of aircraft and the cause of the engine malfunction are not yet publicly known; in fact, the names of the persons involved in the accident are also still under wraps. It is not clear whether either pilot or passenger will be pursing legal action against the maker of the aircraft.
The craft itself apparently suffered a lot of damage in the crash. It is not known who owns the plane.