The U.S. Coast Guard suspended the search for a family aboard a Florida-bound plane that disappeared near the Bahamas.
U.S. Coast Guard officials searched by sea and air until 9 p.m. Thursday, after debris that was found in the ocean east of the island of Eleuthera was determined to have come from a twin-engine Mitsubishi MU-2B aircraft, the type that air traffic control lost contact with as it traveled from Puerto Rico to Florida on Monday.
"This was a swift and significant loss and its impact has reverberated through everyone that participated in the search," said Christopher Eddy, search and rescue mission coordinator. "Our hearts and prayers go out to all of the families involved."
The father of the two young children who were on board spoke out for the first time Thursday.
"The debris does match up with that style of aircraft and we have notified the family," said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Kelly, a Coast Guard spokesman.
The people on board the plane were identified as Nathan Ulrich, 52, of Lee, New Hampshire, and Jennifer Blumin of New York, 40, along with her 3- and 4-year-old sons.
Architect James Ramsey, longtime friend of Blumin and father of her two children, told the New York Daily News Wednesday he had lost what he loved most.
"I keep hoping it’s not real and I’ll wake up," Ramsey told the paper. "Wouldn’t wish this pain on the worst person in the world."
Blumin is the founder and CEO of Skylight Group, which provides event space around New York City, specializing in the fashion industry.
The company released a statement confirming that she and members of her family were on the plane. "Her family is working with investigators and we politely ask that you respect their privacy at this time," it said.
Ulrich served as a Coast Guard Auxiliary pilot out of Air Station Cape Cod from 2005 to 2014 and is co-owner of a company that manufactures kick scooters and folding bicycles. The family issued a statement that read, in part, "Nathan is our beloved son, brother and uncle and we wish for resolution as the Coast Guard search continues."
The Coast Guard said it had covered more than 8,200 square miles over 30 hours in a search that was centered about 15 miles east of Eleuthera.
Officials say Blumin's plane was east of Eleuthera when air traffic control in Miami lost radar and radio contact. It was en route from Puerto Rico and never made it to its destination of Titusville, on the northeastern coast of Florida.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it would be investigating the incident.