PLAINFIELD, Ind. — The U.S. Coast Guard has found wreckage from an airplane piloted by an Indiana teenager who was killed when he crashed during an around-the-world flight, a Coast Guard spokesman said Thursday.
A C-130 pilot spotted sections of the plane’s fuselage and other aircraft components Wednesday night in a remote section of the Pacific Ocean off the coast of American Samoa, spokesman Gene Maestas in Honolulu said, and ships later recovered some of that debris.
The body of 17-year-old Haris Suleman was found shortly after Tuesday’s crash. Crews are still searching for the body of 58-year-old Babar Suleman, who was traveling with his son on his around-the-world flight, Maestas said.
Haris Suleman had hoped to set the record for the fastest circumnavigation around the world in a single-engine airplane with the youngest pilot in command. His journey was also a fundraiser to help build schools in his father’s native Pakistan.
The Sulemans, who lived in the suburban Indianapolis community of Plainfield, left Indiana on June 19 and were expected to arrive back in the states Saturday.
Maestas said a Coast Guard plane was looking for additional debris and for Babar Suleman on Thursday, and was working with two ships. He said the search area was originally about a mile off the coast of American Samoa but has since expanded.
"The debris is scattering because of wind and currents so the search area is widening a little bit," he said. "There’s a number of small islands, very small islands, in this area, but it’s very remote."
As plans for welcome-home celebrations shifted to mourning, family and friends defended the father-son team and their mission, saying they had known the dangers when they set out.
"It was an absolutely noble cause that they took this journey on, and they knew the dangers," said family friend Azher Khan, who spoke Wednesday during a news conference in Plainfield.
Babar Suleman had long dreamed of flying around the world. He and his son decided to make the adventure a fundraiser for the Citizens Foundation, which has built 1,000 schools in Pakistan.
Khan said Haris Suleman’s brother is scheduled to arrive Friday in American Samoa. He said 29-year-old Cyrus Suleman will visit a hospital in the capital city of Pago Pago where his brother’s body was taken following Tuesday’s crash near the city’s airport.