PANAMA CITY -- Authorities in Panama searched Tuesday for two Americans who went missing when the small plane they were traveling in splashed into the Pacific ocean and quickly sank.
Three others aboard the private flight have been rescued. Two of them were also U.S. citizens. The third was the plane's pilot, a Canadian.
Panama’s Civil Aviation Authority said Tuesday the two missing U.S. citizens were aged 57 and 70, but did not identify them.
Searchers in boats and aircraft combed the area off Panama’s Punta Chame, south of Panama City.
The single-engine, five-seat Piper Cherokee Six crashed into the ocean Monday. The plane was heading to Chame from Contadora island, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) away.
Gustavo Pérez Morales, the director of the Civil Aviation Authority, told the Telemetro television station that the pilot had radioed in to say he was having engine problems and would have to splash down in the sea.
“We were able to locate the aircraft's coordinates at the moment it splashed down, and that is how we were able to carry out the rescue,” Pérez Morales said.
He said the pilot later told authorities the aircraft sank so quickly they were not able to grab a life raft or life jackets.
“I don't know why they didn't put on life jackets at the right moment,” Pérez Morales said. “This is a rule that planes flying for a long time over the ocean should have life jackets and a raft for any emergency.”