PANAMA CITY (AP/WTWO/WAWV) — Authorities in Panama continue to search for two Americans who went missing when the small plane they were traveling in splashed into the Pacific Ocean and quickly sank.
Three others aboard the private flight have been rescued. Panama’s Civil Aviation Authority said Tuesday the two missing U.S. citizens were aged 57 and 70, but did not identify them.
Sue Borries, one of the two unidentified, was a teacher for decades in Teutopolis, Ill. Her son, Brandon, describes her as a lover of life who continued to serve as she moved into her retirement in Panama.
“Volunteering at a local school, volunteering at a local church, in pickleball leagues,” Borries said. “You know, traveling to all of these little islands. Really a lust for life.”
The single-engine, five-seat Piper Cherokee 6 crashed into the ocean Monday. The plane was heading to Chame from Contadora island, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) away.
Sue and her husband were returning on separate flights from a New Year’s celebration on an island off of Panama. But, on Jan. 3, Sue’s flight crashed into the ocean with a pilot and four U.S citizens on board.
Searchers in boats and aircraft combed the area off Panama’s Punta Chame, south of Panama City.
Three people were rescued, but Borries, another passenger and the aircraft remain missing.
Brandon said Panamanian officials immediately reached out for assistance to the US government.
“They were making a lot of requests to the United States about sonar and dive teams that can do deep and murky water dives,” he said. “They’re making every effort, they just don’t have the resources.”
Brandon said updates from the Department of Defense have been inconsistent. Without a definite answer, the family can’t explore third party contractors to access the airplane.
“It’s not what we want, but an unfulfilled request is worse than a yes or no,” he said. “It’s just nothing, we’re in a holding pattern until we get an answer.”
A statement from the State Department read:
The Department has no higher priority than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad. We are aware of the situation and are providing consular assistance. At this point, we can confirm four U.S. citizens were on board a plane that went down in the ocean near Chame on January 3. Two were found and have received consular assistance. We appreciate Panamanian authorities’ cooperation in search and rescue operations to find the two missing persons. We have no further details to provide at this time due to privacy considerations.– State Department
Brandon said his family wants to grieve, but first they need to find his mother.
“Someone should be stepping in and helping us get there,” he said. “I shouldn’t be the person having to make these calls.”
The Borries family is encouraging people to reach out to elected to officials hoping to bring more awareness to the issue.
Senator Dick Durbin said to WAWV/WTWO in a statement:
“Our staff has had a number of conversations with both State and SOUTHCOM and we urging for continued U.S. government assistance, both directly to the family as well as to help the Panamanian government, which requested assistance in locating the fuselage.”