AFRCC assists Mexican RCC in locating fatal plane wreckage

By NORAD and USNORTHCOM Public Affairs | October 20, 2010

TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - In a sad turn of events that resulted in the death of four Americans, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center here assisted the Government of Mexico in providing closure to the families during a search for a small aircraft that had gone missing near the U.S.- Mexico border Friday.

The Beechcraft plane, carrying members of the "Flying Samaritans" – a volunteer organization comprised of physicians, nurses, dentists, pilots and translators who provide free medical care to people in rural areas of Mexico – was traveling with two other aircraft from San Luis Obispo, Calif., to San Quintin, Baja, Mexico.

After stopping for fuel in Encinada, Mexico, two of the three aircraft landed safely at San Quintin, in Baja, but the third was overdue. The crews notified their company, the Flying Samaritans, who subsequently contacted AFRCC's 24/7 rescue hotline.

Controllers from AFRCC received a call at approximately 6:45 p.m. Friday from a representative of the Flying Samaritans to see what assistance the center could provide. AFRCC then contacted the U.S. State Department, the Baja Mexican Consulate, and Mexico’s Rescue Coordination Center to determine what actions could be taken and to initiate a mission of support.

In addition to utilizing a Spanish-speaking Airman from the 601st Air & Space Operations Center to initially assist with translation between the Mexican RCC and rescue coordinators and controllers at Tyndall, AFRCC began extensive coordination between the Flying Samaritans and other agencies to locate any data that would be useful to the Mexican search efforts.

Searchers located the crash site Sunday, approximately one mile southeast of Soledad Bay in Baja, Mexico.

"Although this particular search did not have the positive results we strive for, it is definitely an example of how important it is for our organization, as a part of the global search and rescue network, to share information and expertise with our counterparts in Mexico to conduct timely, safe and efficient searches," said Lt. Col. Chuck Tomko, AFRCC commander. "We extend our sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who perished in this crash."

AFRCC is the single agency responsible for coordinating all on-land federal search and rescue activities in the 48 contiguous United States; with the additional responsibility for providing SAR assistance to Canada and Mexico. Since January 2010, AFRCC has been involved in saving 501 lives, ranging from locating flood victims and missing/overdue aircraft and personnel to providing cell phone and radar forensic data to search and rescue teams.