News / World

Dominican officials recover debris from small plane crash

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — Authorities in the Dominican Republic said Wednesday that they have recovered debris floating in the ocean they believe is linked to a small plane that recently crashed with three people aboard.

Rescue crews found two aircraft seats, pieces of fuselage and a backpack but no sign of the couple from Tennessee and a Canadian man who were aboard the plane, Enmanuel Souffront, director of a commission that investigates airline accidents, told The Associated Press.

The single-engine Lake LA-250 crashed Monday night off the north coast of the Dominican Republic amid a thunderstorm after taking off from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince.

The passengers were identified as Charles and Candy Ritzen and photographer Benjamin Cole Brown, Aviation Civil Institute spokesman Hector Olivo told the AP.

The Ritzens had lived for more than a decade in Puerto Plata, where they opened a small dental clinic in 2009 to treat impoverished people with help from donations and doctors who worked on a voluntary basis. They also opened an ecotourism park called "Monkey Jungle," whose revenue they used to help operate the clinic as well as to buy medicine, said Dominican dentist Giancarlo Brache.

"They fell in love with the island," recalled Brache, who worked as a volunteer at the clinic for six years. "The energy in that place and the Ritzen's dedication captivated me immediately."

Meanwhile, Brown lived in the tourist area of Cabarete and was involved in humanitarian work, said Genesis Reyes, a friend and local photographer. Brown established a non-profit foundation that employed local artisans and helped other groups build homes for poor people in the Dominican Republic and neighbouring Haiti.