Four people are feared dead after a private plane crashed off Latvia on Sunday night in an incident that led NATO to scramble jets to follow its erratic course.
The Austrian-registered Cessna 551 was to have been carrying four passengers, according to a flight plan, Latvia’s civil aviation authority said in a statement Sunday. Yet those sent to inspect the jet could not see anyone in the cockpit, raising questions about what might have happened in the lead-up to the crash.
The aircraft was flying from Spain to Cologne, Germany, but it appeared to change course, with air traffic controllers unable to communicate with the crew, the statement said.
The aircraft belonged to German businessman Georg Griesemann, his company, Quick Air, confirmed Monday, according to Reuters.
The company, which provides jet charter services, did not say whether Griesemann or any of his relatives were believed to have been onboard. Quick Air did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The jet took off from Jerez in southern Spain at around 12:56 p.m. GMT (8:56 a.m. ET), according to the FlightRadar24 website.
It appeared to turn at Paris and again at Cologne before it flew out over the Baltic and passed the Swedish island of Gotland. Hours after its departure, it was listed on the flight tracker as swiftly losing speed and altitude.
“We’ve learned that the plane has crashed [in the ocean] northwest of the town of Ventspils in Latvia,” a spokesperson for Sweden’s rescue service said. “It has disappeared from the radar.”
German and Danish warplanes were sent to inspect the aircraft as it passed through their airspace, but they were unable to make contact, said Johan Wahlstrom of the Swedish Maritime Administration.
“They could not see anyone in the cockpit,” he said.
A wreck, a patch of waste and an oil-like slick were spotted near the crash site, Latvian search and rescue head Peteris Subbota told Latvian television, adding that no passengers were found.
The search and rescue service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.