An Indiana teenager who was attempting to set a record for an around-the-world flight was killed when his plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean, and crews were searching Wednesday for his father, who was also on board.
Family spokeswoman Annie Hayat said the plane flown by 17-year-old Haris Suleman went down shortly after leaving Pago Pago in American Samoa Tuesday night. Hayat said the body of Haris Suleman had been recovered, but crews were still looking for Babar Suleman.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor in Los Angeles said the single-engine Hawker Beechcraft plane crashed into the ocean Tuesday night under unknown circumstances. The National Weather Service reported gusty conditions in the area Tuesday night, with winds gusting as high as 40 mph at 9 p.m.
“Relatively strong surface winds, especially the overnight gusty conditions, coupled with airflow turbulence created by the American Samoa mountains, may been enough to create hazardous flying conditions,” weather.com meterologist Chrissy Warrilow said.
Hiba Suleman and Azher Khan, a family friend and local president of the charity for which Haris and Babar Suleman were trying to raise money, spoke at a news conference at the Islamic Society of North America in Plainfield.
The family was notified of the crash by the U.S. Coast Guard early Wednesday, Indianapolis time, Suleman said. At that point, the Coast Guard had searched about six hours, found Haris but was still looking for her father, Hiba Suleman said.
The Sulemans left Indiana on June 19 in hopes of making the trip in 30 days to set the record for the fastest circumnavigation around the world in a single-engine airplane with the youngest pilot in command to do so. The father and son were using the trip to raise money for the Citizens Foundation, a nonprofit that builds schools in Pakistan.
They missed the 30-day timetable, in part due to food-borne illness, but planned to return home Sunday. The Sulemans had made stops throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and the South Pacific, and the teenager told The Indianapolis Star earlier this month that he was enjoying each visit.
“There is so much beauty and culture in each country that I couldn’t possibly witness all that I want to in the span of two days,” he said in an email to the newspaper. “That’s the maximum time we’ve been able to spend at a stop.” Read more about the story here.