A 51-year-old American and his two daughters have died in the Caribbean after the aircraft they were traveling in "plummeted into the ocean" moments after takeoff, officials say.
The Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force said the small, one-engine aircraft owned and piloted by Robert Sachs, a resident of the island of Bequia, crashed into the sea about one nautical mile west of the island of Petit Nevis around midday Thursday.
"The aircraft went airborne from the J.F. Mitchell Airport in Paget Farm about 12:11 p.m. for St. Lucia as its final destination. Moments after taking off, the aircraft experienced difficulties and plummeted into the ocean," police said in a Facebook post.
"Fishermen and divers from Paget Farm went to the scene of the incident in their boats to render assistance. The SVG Coast Guard was informed and quickly traveled to Paget Farm, Bequia, to lead in the rescue efforts," it added.
Police identified the victims as Sachs and his three passengers onboard: Christian Klepser — who is from the United States — and his daughters, Madita, 10, and Annik, 12.
"The four bodies of the aforementioned persons were recovered from the aircraft/sea by Coast Guard personnel and were later pronounced deceased by a medical practitioner," the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force said.
It’s not immediately clear what caused the plane to crash. An investigation is ongoing.
The local news website Searchlight reported that Sachs owned a dive business in Bequia and last radioed the airport’s control tower to inform them that he was experiencing difficulties and was turning around.
Police say the bodies have now been transported to the island of St. Vincent and are being looked at by a medical examiner.
"The RSVGPF expresses condolences to all who are negatively affected by this tragic incident," it added. "The RSVGPF will update the public as more information is gathered."