A teenage boy from Indiana who was flying around the world with his father in a single-engine plane was killed when their plane crashed earlier today near American Samoa. The father is missing at sea.
Babar Suleman and his 17-year-old son, Haris, took off from American Samoa this morning. The US Coast Guard notified the family about the crash at sea this morning and said that it had found Haris Suleman's body and the plane's wreckage but had not located Babar Suleman.
The pair left on their around the world adventure June 19 from Greenwood, Indiana, to raise money for The Citizens Foundation, a nonprofit that builds schools in rural Pakistan, the Indianapolis Star reported. Their stops included England, Egypt and Pakistan. They had hoped to "break the record for the fastest circumnavigation around the world with the youngest pilot commanding a private, single engine airplane," the newspaper reported.
"We don’t really know what happened with the plane," Hiba Suleman, Haris' sister, said in a press conference today. She said the plane took off at 9:50 p.m. local time and at 10:15 p.m. the air traffic controller saw the lights of the plane go down about 23 miles off American Samoa.
Hiba Suleman said she talked to her brother Tuesday.
"He had asked me for dad’s credit card info, which apparently my dad wouldn’t give him. He wanted to book a hotel in Hawaii himself. He apparently didn’t like dad’s selection," she said with a chuckle.
She said her brother intended to take SATs and go to engineering school, following in her dad’s footsteps.
"Dad talked for years of going on this trip. We believed in it. We knew there was a risk," she said.
Their favorite stops were Pago Pago and Egypt, where they rode camels and saw pyramids. She said her brother was glad he got to spend so much time with dad, an idea "most people would run from."
Her father had been flying since 2007 and Haris had started learning last year, obtaining his flying license in June, she said. They were expected back home on Saturday.
Azher Kaan, a family friend, told reporters that he received an email from Babar this morning talking about how they were on their way back. "We were organizing welcome banners," he said. "We're still hopeful we will have Babar coming back."
He said the pair had raised over $500,000 "for building schools in impoverished neighborhoods, for children who had nothing."
The Coast Guard was searching for Babar Suleman late today.