Coast Guard searches for downed plane with 8 aboard

A sign is displayed at the United States Coast Guard Station Brant Point in Nantucket, Mass., Thursday, Nov. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

MOREHEAD CITY — Crews are searching the ocean off North Carolina on Monday after finding a debris field where a small plane carrying eight people went down a day earlier, the Coast Guard said.

Watchstanders received a report of a possible downed aircraft about 4 miles east of Drum Inlet from a Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point air traffic controller on Sunday, the Coast Guard said. The air traffic controller reported that the aircraft was behaving erratically on radar, then disappeared from the screen.

The single-engine Pilatus PC-12/47 crashed into the water approximately 18 miles northeast of Michael J. Smith Field in Beaufort, N.C. around 2 p.m. local time Sunday, according to an email from the Federal Aviation Administration on Monday. A preliminary accident notification on the FAA’s website noted that the aircraft “crashed into water under unknown circumstances.”

FlightAware listed a departure for that plane from Hyde County Airport at 1:35 p.m. Sunday and noted it was last seen near Beaufort at 2:01 p.m. A total of eight people were aboard, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

Coast Guard spokesperson Petty Officer Edward Wargo said searchers have found a debris field in the area.

The search included boat crews launched from Coast Guard Station Fort Macon and Coast Guard Station Hatteras Inlet, an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter aircrew from Air Station Elizabeth City, local fire and sheriff’s department personnel and and National Park Service beach crews, the agency said.

The National Transportation Safety Board tweeted Monday that it is investigating the crash.