Learjet crash: Coast Guard continues search for two possible survivors

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL (WFLX) - The U.S. Coast Guard continues its search effort for two people missing from Tuesday night's Learjet crash off the coast of Fort Lauderdale.

The Learjet 35 -- carrying a doctor, nurse and two pilots, all of them Mexican citizens -- crashed shortly after one of the pilots reported apparent engine failure shortly after takeoff Tuesday evening from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

The crew had just dropped a patient off at the airport and was returning to Mexico when the crash happened, airport spokesman Greg Meyer said.

A distress call from one of the pilots came just moments after takeoff.

"We have an engine failure," the pilot said.

An air traffic controller asked him to turn left and keep a certain altitude.

"Not possible," the pilot responded. "We're going to do a 180, and we're going to land."

Seconds later, he said: "Mayday, mayday, mayday."

Coast Guard boats remained on the lookout late Wednesday night and will send up two helicopters to continue search efforts from the air at first light Thursday morning. "Right now, anything is possible. We have not found any evidence that they are not alive. So we are still continuing to search," Ofc . Ryan Doss, U.S. Coast  Guard.

U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Ryan Doss say, so far, they have searched an area the size of the state of Rhode Island. 

The challenge they're running into now -- crew exhaustion and an oncoming forecast of wind and rain. "The ocean is a huge place, and it is very challenging to do these types of searches especially across multiple days and throughout the night as the weather deteriorates," Ofc. Doss said.

Investigators say they have recovered two bodies, but two remain unaccounted for.

NBC6.com reported a statement from Mexico's Directorate General of Civil Aeronics identified the pilots as Jose Hiram Galvan and Josue Buendia Moreno, and the passengers as Fernando Senties Nieto and Mariana Gonzalez Isuna.

Worried friends have been posting to Nieto's Facebook page. "Shocking and terrible news," one person commented. Another post reads: "I can say that Dr. Senties was a great and dedicated professional."

Crews have found wreckage from the crash as far north as Boynton Beach. The Coast Guard says if you find any debris not to touch it, but give them a call so you don't tamper with the investigation.

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