Unresponsive airplane crashes near Jamaica [UPDATED]

A small Florida-bound plane crashed into Jamaica after its pilot appeared to lose consciousness.
By Gabrielle Levy  |  Sept. 5, 2014 at 1:34 PM
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PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo., Sept. 5 (UPI) -- [Update: 2:38 p.m. EDT]

Jamaican authorities said the missing plane, N900KN, had crashed into the water off the coast of the island around 2:15 p.m., more than seven hours into the flight and more than four hours since the pilot was in contact with ground control.

[Original story follows]

Authorities are tracking a private aircraft with an unresponsive pilot flying over the Atlantic Ocean Friday afternoon.

The plane, a Socata TBM 700, took off from Rochester, N.Y., and was headed for Naples, Fla., the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) said.

The FAA said the pilot has made no contact with anyone on the ground since 10 a.m. EDT Friday. Around 10:04 a.m., according to Flight Aware, the plane lost about 3,000 feet and has not changed course since.

Two NORAD F-15s were escorting the aircraft, but broke away when it entered Cuban airspace around 1:30 p.m.

At 2:15 p.m., NORAD said its F-15s had returned to base for refueling.

By 2:20 p.m., officials said the plane had exited Cuban airspace and is approaching Jamaican airspace.

By 2:30 p.m., the plane had appeared to drop off publicly available trackers, such as Flight Aware and Plane Finder.

NORAD said the occupants of the plane may be suffering from hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation, and the pilot was observed slumped over in the cockpit before the windows frosted over. The plane has seven seats, and the Pentagon said there are believed to be one or two people in addition to the pilot on board.

The plane, described as a "light business and utility craft," is now being trailed by a Cuban plane. It is registered to a real estate company in Rochester.

NORAD said if the plane crosses through Cuban airspace, the F-15s will begin trailing it again on the southern side of the Island. But because of the size of the plane, it is likely to run out of fuel very shortly.

Should that occur, the jets may move to bring the plane down deliberately so as to prevent it from crashing into a populated area.

Friday's incident was the second time in a week a private plane has gone dark. On Saturday, a Cirrus SR22 crashed into the Atlantic off Wallops Island, Va. NORAD airmen observed the unconscious pilot in the cockpit and escorted the plane until it crashed into the ocean

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