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2 dead, 2 missing after air ambulance crashes off Florida coast


Rescue workers scoured coastal Florida waters early Wednesday for two people missing after a Mexico-based air ambulance crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off Fort Lauderdale after an apparent engine failure.

Authorities found the bodies of two crew members just off the coast, Coast Guard Petty Officer Mark Barney said. Rescuers were searching a 20-square-mile area of the ocean for the other two, the Coast Guard said.

The four people aboard the Learjet 35 -- two pilots, a doctor and a nurse -- had just dropped off a patient at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and were headed back to Cozumel, Mexico, when the crash occurred Tuesday evening, airport spokesman Greg Meyer said.

A distress call from one of the pilots came just moments after takeoff.

"We have an engine failure," the pilot said.

An air traffic controller asked him to turn left and keep a certain altitude.

"Not possible," the pilot responded. "We're going to do a 180, and we're going to land."

Seconds later, he said: "Mayday, mayday, mayday."

The two medical staff members worked for Air Evac International, said Albert Carson, the company's director of operations. The pilots worked for a charter company.

Authorities have not publicly identified the bodies pending notification of their families.

"We're waiting on pins and needles ... waiting for more information," Carson said late Tuesday night.

Air Evac International has several bases in Mexican cities that are popular with tourists, as well as in Costa Rica and San Diego. Carson said many of its patients are tourists.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.