Fighters from Spain, France, Germany and Denmark followed the plane of a German businessman and his family without seeing the passengers or being able to communicate with them
The civil aviation authorities are trying to unravel what happened in the five hours that have elapsed since the plane of the German businessman Karl Peter Griesemann took off on Sunday from the Spanish airport of Jerez de la Frontera until its plummeting in the waters of the Baltic Sea off the coast of Latvia. The Swedish rescue services found on Monday the first remains of the Cessna 551 piloted by the tycoon himself, but no indication of the whereabouts of the 72-year-old executive and the other three occupants of the aircraft: his wife, Julianne, 68 years; his daughter, Lisa, 26; and a fourth passenger, 27, who was probably the girl’s boyfriend.
Experts have already dubbed the OE-FGR flight the ‘ghost plane’. The Cessna, 40 years old and with a capacity for a dozen occupants, left the Andalusian town on Sunday at 2:56 p.m. His destination was Cologne, where Griesemann ran a business group that included a company of eleven ambulance planes. The executive himself was at the controls.
The family was returning to Germany after spending a few days in their chalet in the municipality of Tarifa. They had been regulars on the Cadiz coast for four decades when the businessman bought the house in an area near Zahara de los Atunes where a large colony of Germans resides and numerous luxury homes are built. They spent three or four seasons a year there.
Things got complicated for the OE-FGR when it crossed the sky of Toledo. The pilot reported that he was allegedly suffering from pressure problems in the cabin. The controllers misunderstood him. His voice cracked. Two military fighters took off from Torrejón de Ardoz. The usual NATO protocol in this type of emergency. They were placed as an escort on each side of the plane. The military visually inspected the helmet and tried to communicate by radio with Griesemann without obtaining any response. They also did not see the passengers. But they did notice that the ship was flying on autopilot in a straight line and at a constant speed.
Upon reaching the vertical of Bordeaux, the Spanish fighters gave way to a French patrol. Sources close to the case assure that at some point before passing Paris a second call could have been made from the cabin confirming the pressurization problems in the device, although this point has not been confirmed. In fact, the French Air Force specified that its commanders did not distinguish anyone inside the plane, which was flying at an altitude of about 1,100 meters. An expert commented to a Swedish newspaper on Monday that this fact could be an indication that the four occupants were already dead or had passed out due to lack of oxygen.
Be that as it may, flight OE-FGR continued its advance. He made a turn at the height of Paris and another later, already within German airspace, in Cologne. This was reported by the pilot of a Eurofighter sent by the German Army who also did not see human activity in the Cessna. The last witnesses of the ‘ghost flight’ were two crew members of a Danish fighter, which took over from the German and was able to follow its final trajectory. The plane practically hovered. Suddenly he began to lose height. He went into a spin. He had run out of fuel. It ended up crashing violently in the waters of the Baltic. It was 7:45 p.m.
Experts consider it a “miracle” that the aircraft did not crash into inhabited areas
Previously, the authorities sounded the alarms on the island of Gotland – the same one that Sweden ordered to be militarily shielded due to its strategic location against Russia – in the event that the plane fell on it. Aeronautical sources consider it a “miracle” that the Cessna did not cross other aircraft on its long and erratic path, and that it flew over a large part of inhabited Europe to land precisely in the sea, just thirteen kilometers from the Latvian coast.
The Swedish coastguard deployed rescue planes, a helicopter and several boats on Sunday night. The device began to give results on Monday morning with the discovery of some pieces of the Cessna. The small size of the fragments suggests that the collision when entering the sea blew up the ship.
Karl Peter Griesemann was well known in Cologne. Apart from the entrepreneurial side of him, he was also the honorary president of the Blue Sparks, an active group participating in the Cologne Carnival. He was very popular in the region. It is difficult to find photographs in which he is not smiling.
The search operation is being assisted by Lithuanian and Estonian teams. It is centered on an area of 36 square kilometers and about 60 meters deep. Rescuers believe that the sea conditions and the violence of the impact make it impossible to find survivors.
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