The U.S. Coast Guard suspended its search for three occupants of a Bombardier Learjet 36A that declared an emergency before it crashed yesterday morning into the sea about a mile southwest of San Clemente Island, some 65 miles southwest of San Diego. This marks the third fatal mishap of a U.S.-registered business jet year-to-date.
The twinjet had taken off from Point Mugu Naval Air Station and was being operated as a public-use aircraft by Phoenix Air under a U.S. Navy contract. After receiving word of the crash, at about 8 a.m. PT, another Phoenix Air Learjet in the area immediately began searching for possible survivors; its crew located a debris field one mile southwest of San Clemente Island.
According to the Flight Safety Foundation Aviation Safety Network, Phoenix Air has experienced three previous fatal accidents since 1988. Before yesterday's crash, the last Phoenix Air fatal accident occurred on Dec. 14, 1994, when a Learjet 35 flying as a public-use aircraft for the U.S. Air Force crashed on approach for landing.
“Suspending search efforts is one of the hardest decisions to be made, but after aggressively searching the area around San Clemente Island for more than 24 hours using land, air, and surface assets with negative results, the decision was made to suspend the active search until further information or developments occur,” said a Coast Guard spokesperson.