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Plane crashes in Flagler

Crews search for survivors

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MARINELAND, Fla. – Several law enforcement and government agencies are searching Friday for survivors of a small plane crash near the Flagler-St. Johns county line.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, witnesses saw a plane crash in a swampy area near Marineland in the Matanzas River. A witness reports that they saw the plane flying low and heard the engine sputter.

A debris field has been located, officials said.

Chief Mark Strobridge with the Flagler County Sheriff's Office said that preliminary reports indicated two people may have been onboard the aircraft, but they are working to confirm that number.

Strobridge said about 9:30 a.m. that "more pieces have been found" but he could not confirm if they were from the missing aircraft.

According to the FAA, the Piper PA44 was approximately 22 miles north of Ormond Beach when it lost radar contact around 11 p.m. Thursday. The aircraft took off from Brunswick, Georgia, and was heading to Ormond Beach.

"This is a Piper Seminole. This is the Universal Twin-Engine training airplane used around the world. It's built out in Vero Beach. No one uses it for anything else. It's not utilized for personal transportation. There are a dozen flight schools in this area. It's undoubtedly an instructional flight with a student and instructor on board," aviation expert Ed Booth said.

Members of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, St. Augustine Police Department, Flagler County Sheriff's Office, Volusia County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Border Patrol were all taking part in the search. The FAA and NTSB are investigating the crash as well.

Authorities have been conducting a search and rescue using boats and helicopters, like the Coast Guard's MH-60 Jayhawk, to cover all grounds.

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