The Austrian-registered Cessna Citation 551 left Jerez, Spain at 12:56 UTC (8:56 a.m. ET) and its intended destination was Cologne, Germany, according to Flightradar24, a website that monitors global air traffic.
But it fell into the waters near the town of Ventspils in Latvia, according to Latvian Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Artis Pabriks, who said the Latvian military had been deployed in a search and rescue operation .
The plane was certified for single-pilot operations, according to German newspaper Bild, which reported that the plane had four people on board, including the pilot, a man, a woman and a person who Bild described as a girl, without provide more details. .
“Jets from NATO allies and partners were dispatched to follow the Cessna private plane which crashed off the coast of Latvia on Sunday evening. They included German planes from Neuburg and Laage in Germany, and German and Spanish planes, part of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing, from Ämari, Estonia, France, Denmark and Sweden also sent planes under national command, a NATO official told CNN.
“The pilots were unable to contact the aircraft and did not see anyone in the cockpit,” the official added.
Flightradar24 said “the pilot did not respond to calls from ATC and the aircraft continued to fly straight on autopilot before losing altitude and crashing.”
“Final altitude received was 2100ft at -8000fpm descent”, before the aircraft’s transponder signal ceased to be received by the tracking site.
The French aviation police, which also intercepted and escorted the plane, were alerted by the Spanish authorities “of probable difficulties in pressurizing the aircraft”, the French Ministry of the Armed Forces said in a press release.
Attempts by French authorities to contact the aircraft were unsuccessful but the unresponsive aircraft “was continuously escorted while in transit to Germany”, the ministry added.
Latvia said it sent ships to the scene.
Lars Antonsson of the Swedish Sea and Air Rescue Center told CNN affiliate Expressen that a Swedish helicopter as well as a plane assisted in the rescue operation in Latvian waters after the plane flew over the Swedish island of Gotland.
Antonsson said search teams had located parts of the plane, but “no survivors were found”.