Coast Guard on search and rescue mission for missing men, plane
The Coast Guard said Tuesday it is conducting a search-and-rescue mission for three men aboard a single-engine plane that went missing Monday afternoon shortly after takeoff from Gulfport.
Two of three people on a plane that went missing Monday are employees of a Georgia-based contracting business.
Bob Roy, president and co-owner of RMR Mechanical based in Cumming, Ga., told the Sun Herald both company manager Dexter Brewer and vice president and co-owner Gerald Miletello were on the plane, which took off from Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport on Monday and has not been seen since.
Debris, possibly from the plane, was spotted by a passerby near Belle Fontaine beach in Jackson County.
Tina Cook of Saucier is the wife of Brewer, a back-seat passenger.
Cook said she believes the plane crashed due to bad weather.
"Cause there was just lots of gusty wind and rain," she said. "It's just not good weather for flying."
She said she never would've thought this could happen to her family.
"When you see a tragedy on TV and you say, 'Oh. Those poor people,' and you never think it's going to be you. Then all of a sudden it is me," Cook said. "It's like you wonder how are you ever going to go on because that part of your life -- that person -- is the most important part of your life. He is our life. He's the center of our universe. There's no life without him."
Cook remains hopeful that her husband is still alive.
"I always believe in a miracle," she said. "I know he's a very, very smart man, and if there was a way that he could have survived, he'd try his best to do it because he'd want to stay here with us.
Cook spoke with her husband right before he got on the airplane Monday. He told her they were going to probably fly along the coast in an attempt to evade the rough weather, she said.
"When the owners wife didn't hear from him and I didn't hear from Dexter, we talked to each other and we notified the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) in Washington D.C.," Cook said. "That's when we got the ball rolling trying to get somebody to look for them, not realizing the plane had disappeared, they said, about eight minutes after takeoff."
Roy said Brewer, on his way to a customer meeting in South Carolina, has been an employee for about a decade. He said the third person on the plane was a pilot.
RMR Mechanical performs contracting and mechanical work for clients throughout the South and East, its website says.
"We are actively searching for survivors," Capt. Brandon Lechthaler of the Coast Guard said. "This is a search and rescue."
Lechthaler said boats and aircraft are assisting in the search, which is spreading out from a point 3 miles south of Gulfport where they believe the Lancair went into the water.
Involved in the search are: a MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans, an HC-144 Ocean Sentry fixed-wing aircraft from Coast Guard Aviation Training Center Mobile, a 24-foot Shallow Water Special Purpose Craft from Coast Guard Station Pascagoula, five Mississippi Department of Marine Resources boatcrews, and a Chevron private helicopter crew.
Families of the men have been sent to Pascagoula's Coast Guard station to await news from the search.
The plane took off from Louisiana, stopped in Gulfport and was en route to South Carolina when it went down.
"There's been no confirmation the debris found was from the plane but it is highly likely," Lechthaler said.
DMR Patrol Captain Keith Davis said officials are hopeful the men can be found safe.
He said Gov. Phil Bryant has been briefed on the situation.
Davis said the most significant piece of debris was the tail wing.
Sheriff Mike Ezell has asked Jackson Countians to contact the sheriff's department if they find anything else.
"Do not move or touch it," he said. "The Jackson County Sheriff's Department is available if you find anything."
According to the Coast Guard, the Lancair lost radio contact about 12:40 p.m. Monday, shortly after takeoff. Radar and cellphone searches show its last known location was in the Mississippi Sound.
The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center notified watchstanders at Coast Guard Sector Mobile about 10:40 p.m.
The plane left the Million Air terminal in Gulfport about noon Monday, said its general manager, Peter Mastroianni.
John Fitzhugh, Sun Herald photojournalist, contributed to this report