Coast Guard suspends search for couple missing at sea

Monroe County Sheriff’s Office divers find 2 pieces of plane on ocean floor

The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed Friday that it has suspended its search for a couple who is believed to be missing at sea after their plane crashed sometime Sunday.

MONROE COUNTY, Fla. – The U.S. Coast Guard confirmed Friday that it has suspended its search for a couple who is believed to be missing at sea after their plane crashed sometime Sunday.

The search was suspended on Thursday.

Coast Guard officials said divers with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office recovered two pieces of a plane Thursday, identifying the tail number of the missing single-engine plane on the ocean floor near Big Pine Key.

Officials believe the Vans RV-12 plane Alexandra “Ali” Tufo and her boyfriend Thomas “Tommy” Campana were flying from Fort Lauderdale to Key West Sunday crashed about 19 miles north of Big Pine Key.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Alexandra Tufo and Thomas Campana,” said Cmdr. Lindsey Seniuk, search and rescue mission coordinator, Coast Guard District Seven. “This was a challenging case and it made the decision to suspend that much harder after our partners found the debris field. The MCSO divers are the experts in this new phase of the search, and our crews will be ready if our assistance is requested.”

Coast Guard crews began searching for the overdue plane on Tuesday after they were alerted by the Federal Aviation Administration,

It’s unclear if Campana submitted a flight plan. He also did not have a FlightAware tracking system, which experts say isn’t uncommon for small single-engine planes.

In a statement, the FAA said: “The FAA does not require private aircraft operators to file flight plans, but recommends they do.”

“I don’t know why someone would do that, especially if you’re trying to have safety mechanisms in place,” Tufo’s sister, Lana Tufo, said. “She told me Tommy was an amateur pilot and he had gotten his license, and they had been going up into the air and she was really scared to go up in a small plane. But she was so happy she overcame her fear.”


About the Authors:

Amanda Batchelor is the Digital Executive Producer for Local10.com.

Andrew Perez is a South Florida native who joined the Local 10 News team in May 2014.