Washington: At least two people were killed when a small plane crashed off the coast of Jamaica in an incident that prompted coordination between longtime foes Cuba and the United States.
The seven-seater aircraft took off from the northeastern United States and flew south over Cuba and across the Caribbean on Friday, ignoring calls from air traffic control with its pilot, according to reports, unconscious in the cockpit.
The Cuban government authorized the US military to fly a C-130 cargo plane and two F-15 fighter jets over its airspace to investigate the incident, according to an official statement in Havana.
"During all the time (the plane was flying and not responding), we were communicating with the American authorities, who were informed of each of the measures taken in relation to this event," the statement added.
Once the aircraft was detected by Cuban radar, "all control measures of our surveillance system... including those related to aeronautical search and rescue at sea were increased," it said.
US officials said they did not know how many people were on board the Socata TBM-700.
NBC News, citing unnamed US officials, said the pilot was seen "unconscious and slumped over" in the cockpit.
According to the tracking website FlightAware.com the flight took off from Rochester, New York at 8:26 am (1226 GMT) en route for Naples Municipal Airport in Florida.
The Federal Aviation Administration said flight controllers lost contact with the plane at 10:00 am, prompting the North American Aerospace Defense Command to scramble the jets.
"They`ve broken off, we`re no longer monitoring it," a NORAD spokesperson told AFP after the plane crossed into Cuban airspace.
Officials from the city of Rochester, New York, said real estate entrepreneur Larry Glazer and his wife Jane were killed in the crash. Flags were flown at half-mast in the city.
The Glazers "believed in the full potential of Rochester and their passion for our community was always on display," New York Assembly Democratic Majority Leader Joseph Morelle said on Twitter.
"Their presence will forever be felt throughout Rochester, a community they loved, fought tirelessly for, and called home."
The United States and Cuba have not had full official diplomatic relations for more than half a century, but the Federal Aviation Administration said that the two countries routinely cooperate on air traffic control matters.
NORAD is the joint Canadian and American command in charge of maritime and aerospace warnings for the neighboring nations.