[UPDATE BELOW] A small turboprop plane headed from Rochester, NY to Naples, FL crashed in Jamaica this afternoon after flying hundreds of miles off-course. The plane reportedly stopped responding to radio calls this morning, prompting officials to send fighter jets to follow it, and U.S. officials say the pilot appeared to have lost consciousness in flight.
The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) reported that the plane, a Socata TBM700 that seats six people, took off from Rochester at around 8:45 a.m. this morning, but went unresponsive at around 10 a.m. Two F-15 fighter jets were dispatched to follow it about an hour later, but were forced to circle around once the errant plane entered Cuban airspace. NORAD reported that the jets saw the pilot was "unresponsive and slumped over the controls,"—you can see the flight path here.
The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed the plane crashed off the coast of Jamaica this afternoon. They issued the following statement:
Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Controllers tracked a Socata TBM700 aircraft through U.S. airspace after the pilot stopped responding to radio calls at about 10 a.m. EDT. The aircraft flew along the east coast of Florida and through Cuban airspace before descending into the ocean about 14 miles off the coast of Port Antonio, Jamaica at about 2:15 p.m. EDT. The flight departed from Greater Rochester Intl. Airport in New York and was headed to Naples Municipal Airport in Florida. We have not confirmed the number of persons on board.
NORAD is currently investigating the cause of the crash, and officials say "possible hypoxia," or lack of oxygen, may have caused the pilot to fall unconscious. Three people, including Rochester developer Larry Glazer, are believed to have been onboard. Glazer's son, Rick Glazer, declined to comment to the Associated Press.
Update 4:41 p.m.: Family members have confirmed Rochester developer Larry Glazer and his wife, Jane Glazer, were onboard the plane. Their children, Mindy, Rick and Ken Glazer, issued the following statement this afternoon:
We are devastated by the tragic and sudden loss of our parents, Jane and Larry Glazer. They loved and appreciated the opportunity to help build the community of Rochester, and we thank everyone in the community for their expressions of support. We understand that there are many questions yet to be answered about today's events, and we too are awaiting answers. At this time, we would appreciate the ability to mourn privately.
Thank you for your understanding.
Governor Andrew Cuomo has also issued a statement:
I join the residents of Rochester during this difficult week in mourning the loss of Larry and Jane Glazer in today’s tragic plane crash. The Glazers were innovative and generous people who were committed to revitalizing downtown Rochester and making the city they loved a better place for all. I offer my deepest condolences to the Glazers’ family and friends during this difficult and trying time.