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5 Missing as Plane Crashes Off Coast of Italy, Navy Says

From Times Wire Services

An observation aircraft assigned to monitor relief drops in Bosnia-Herzegovina crashed off the coast of Italy and five crew members were missing, the U.S. Navy said Friday.

The E-2C Hawkeye radar plane, based on the carrier Theodore Roosevelt, had not encountered hostile fire in the flight over the Ionian Sea late Thursday, according to a statement released by U.S. Naval Forces Europe in London.

The plane went down in international waters about 65 miles east of Crotone, Italy, a Navy spokesman said in Norfolk, Va., the Roosevelt’s home port.

The crash was reported at 3:54 p.m. PST Thursday about a mile from the carrier, the Navy said. It said the carrier was operating south of the Strait of Otranto as part of 6th Fleet operations.

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None of the five crew members were found during a daylong search Friday, although some wreckage and debris were sighted, said Cmdr. Charles Connor, spokesman for the U.S. naval headquarters in London. The search is expected to resume today.

Names of the crew members were not released pending notification of relatives.

President Clinton, who visited the Roosevelt two weeks ago, opened a news conference with German Chancellor Helmut Kohl with a statement noting the crash.

“I want to express my deep concern over the accident,” he said. “Just two weeks ago, I visited the USS Theodore Roosevelt and met the fine sailors and Marines serving their nation at sea there. I was profoundly impressed by their commitment, their dedication and their professionalism.”

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