INDIANAPOLIS An Indiana teenager was killed when his plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean while attempting to set a record for an around-the-world flight, a family spokeswoman said Wednesday.
The plane flown by 17-year-old Haris Suleman went down shortly after leaving Pago Pago in American Samoa on Tuesday night, said Annie Hyatt. Suleman's body was recovered, but authorities were still searching for his father, Babar, who was a passenger.
The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed Wednesday afternoon that officials were investigating the accident.
The Sulemans left on their around the world adventure June 19 from the Greenwood Airport to raise money for The Citizens Foundation, a non-profit that builds schools in rural Pakistan. They made stops in several countries, including England, Egypt and Pakistan, in hopes of breaking the record for the fastest circumnavigation around the world with the youngest pilot commanding a private, single-engine airplane.
Several hours before leaving American Samoa, Suleman, who was going to be a senior at Plainfield (Ind.) High School, tweeted that 'Pago Pago is without a doubt (among the) top 5 places I've been this summer.'
The Plainfield Community School Corp. released a statement saying they were 'deeply saddened to learn of the death of one of our students. ... Haris's adventurous spirit and huge heart led him to reaching for his personal goal while also seeking to raise funds and awareness for schools supported by The Citizens Foundation.'
Since word of the crash, people have donated at least $400 to the Sulemans fund-raising campaign.
Haris Suleman had recently acquired his pilot's license and instrument rating, which authorized him to fly an aircraft over oceans. He told The Indianapolis Star that he enjoyed the lessons he learned through aviation.
'I feel like becoming a pilot has changed me a lot,' he said. 'It's really hard to get to a point where you can fly around the world.'
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor in Los Angeles said the single-engine Hawker Beechcraft plane crashed into the ocean Tuesday night under unknown circumstances. The tail number provided by the FAA shows the plane is registered to a limited liability corporation whose address matches Babar Suleman's home address in Plainfield, west of Indianapolis.
U.S. Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Melissa McKenzie said witnesses reported seeing the Honolulu-bound plane crash about a mile from shore shortly after taking off from Pago Pago International Airport.
In an e-mail to The Indianapolis Star earlier this month, Suleman said he had enjoyed every stop.
'There is so much beauty and culture in each country that I couldn't possibly witness all that I want to in the span of two days,' he said. 'That's the maximum time we've been able to spend at a stop.'
They were scheduled to return to Indiana on Sunday.