Search for plane carrying Missoni exec continues

The search for a plane carrying Vittorio Missoni, director general of the Italian Missoni fashion brand, continued on Sunday off the coast of Venezuela but no sign of the craft has as yet been found.

CARACAS, Venezuela — The search for a missing plane carrying Italian fashion executive Vittorio Missoni and five other people entered its third straight day on Sunday with no signs of the aircraft.

Venezuela's National Civil Aviation Institute says search teams are using a plane and a helicopter and the Venezuelan coast guard to find the small plane, which disappeared off the country's coast.

The twin-engine plane was reported missing hours after taking off Friday from Los Roques, a string of islands and islets popular among tourists for their white beaches and coral reefs.

The plane was carrying the CEO of Italy's iconic Missoni fashion house, his wife, two Italian friends and two Venezuelan crew members.

Officials from Venezuela's civil aviation agency have said authorities declared an alert after the plane didn't make contact with the control tower at the Caracas airport or with the tower in Los Roques. Officials said the twin-engine craft took off at 11:39 a.m. Friday and had been expected to arrive in Caracas 42 minutes later.

Missoni's younger brother, Luca, who is active in the family-run business, reportedly traveled to Venezuela Saturday to monitor search efforts.

"We're holding onto a glimmer of hope," said Oswaldo Scalvenzi , a relative of Elda Scalvenzi, one of the Missoni friends aboard the flight. "Until we can see the wreckage" hope will remain, Scalvenzi told Italian state TV Saturday night.

The twin-engine plane had enough fuel on board for a three-hour flight, said Francisco Paz Fleitas, president of the civil aviation agency.

Vittorio Missoni is the eldest son of the company's founder, Ottavio, who at 91 still follows the business.

The Corriere della Sera newspaper reported that Ottavio and his wife Rosita were at their home in Italy, along with their daughter Angela, waiting for information about the search. Rosita Missoni designs housewares for the company, and Angela is the company's creative director.

The Missoni fashion house, with its trademark zigzag and other geometric patterns in sweaters, scarves and other knitwear, is one of Italy's most famous fashion brands abroad. It is scheduled to display its latest menswear creations at a fashion show in Milan later this month.

Vittorio Missoni played a key role in marketing the Missoni family creations in Asia, especially in Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea as general director of marketing for Missoni SpA. He also spearheaded a push for the company's products in the United States and France. His efforts to expand the brand abroad led Missoni to be dubbed the company's "ambassador."

Vittorio Missoni has been described as an active sportsman and lover of the outdoors. He and his wife and their friends from northern Italy were scheduled to fly back from Caracas to Italy on Friday after spending the Christmas and New Year's holidays in the islands.

The plane disappeared shortly after takeoff on a flight of about 95 miles from the islands to the Caracas airport.

Other small planes have gone down or vanished on flights between the archipelago and the mainland.

On Jan. 4, 2008, a plane on a flight from Caracas to Los Roques disappeared after crashing with 14 people aboard, including eight Italians, a Swiss man and five Venezuelans. The pilot had radioed to controllers that he was having engine trouble before the plane went down as it approached the islands. The body of the Venezuelan co-pilot later washed ashore, but no wreckage was found and most of those on board remain missing.

In 2009, a small plane returning from Los Roques with nine people aboard plunged into the Caribbean Sea, but all survived.

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