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Learjet crashes off Florida coast, two bodies found

By Eric M. Johnson

(Reuters) - A medical flight with probably four people on board crashed into the Atlantic Ocean late on Tuesday shortly after takeoff from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and two bodies have been recovered, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman said.

The plane, a Learjet headed for the Mexican resort city of Cozumel, went down several miles east of Fort Lauderdale shortly after 8 p.m. (0100 GMT Wednesday), Lieutenant Commander Gabe Somma said.

"We have recovered two bodies along with the debris field," he said, adding that there was no immediate word on whether anyone had survived or on what had caused the crash.

Mexico's Communications and Transport Ministry said in a statement that there were four people on board the plane - two pilots and two passengers.

The two passengers, a doctor and a nurse, worked for AirEvac International, according to a dispatcher for the air ambulance and transportation company who declined to be named.

"They had completed a mission, they were returning," he said, adding that the two pilots worked for the aircraft's operator and owner. It was not clear who was still missing.

"We are on pins and needles awaiting further notification," he said, adding "this is a really difficult, emotional situation."

Somma said the Coast Guard had received reports that four people were aboard the aircraft but said that he could not confirm the number.

Rescue workers were able to arrive at the debris site in roughly 25 minutes and were carefully analyzing wind and current patterns as they searched relatively calm waters for survivors, Somma said. The cause of the crash was under investigation.

The Mexican ministry named the pilots as Jose Galvan de la O. and Josue Buendia and the two passengers as Fernando Senties and Mariana Gonzalez.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson, and Elinor Comlay; Editing by Steve Gorman and Mohammad Zargham)

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