Bag found on rocks off Curacao may provide lead in missing plane mystery

CARACAS, Venezuela, Wednesday January 30, 2013 – Weeks after the mysterious disappearance of a small twin-engine aircraft carrying Italian fashion mogul Vittorio Missoni, his three companions and a two-man crew, the first piece of evidence has emerged that may shed some light on the fate of the missing plane.

On January 4, the light aircraft took off from the tourist island of Los Roques bound for Caracas and disappeared without a trace, with the last-known radar blip placing it about 11 miles out to sea.

Now, Italy’s Corriere Della Sera is reporting that a German tourist found a kite-surf bag from the aircraft on the rocks off Curaçao, some 125 miles away from Los Roques, on January 10.

According to the report on Monday, the recovered bag was empty, but the owner’s name – Giorgio Neri – and email address were still visible on a plastic baggage tag.

Neri reportedly left Los Roques after the Missoni party on January 4, but sent his kite-surf equipment ahead with the Missoni group due to limited room on his plane. The German tourist who subsequently discovered the bag was apparently unaware of the Missoni disappearance and had no idea of the significance of his find. A week after he returned to Germany, he emailed Neri to tell him he’d recovered the bag.

Neri went on to alert authorities and the Missoni family to tell them that his bag had been on Missoni’s plane. 

Authorities in Venezuela, who have been conducting extensive air and sea searches, are now refocusing their efforts to the area where the bag was found to see if other debris may have been carried by the same sea currents. 

Missoni’s brother Luca, who was assisting search crews in Venezuela, was reportedly relocating to Curaçao following these developments.

Prior to the news of the discovery, the Missoni family had been hoping that the six missing persons were alive, and suggested that they could have been kidnapped. At the weekend, the children of Missoni and the other passengers had issued an appeal for any information relating to the disappearance.

On Monday, a Missoni spokesperson told the media that “the family has not drawn a conclusion yet.”

Venezuelan authorities nevertheless maintain that they had concluded that the plane went down from the outset. They dismissed the kidnapping notion, focussing instead on the pilot, aircraft, and last-known position.

Since the aircraft’s disappearance, they had been concentrating search efforts on an area south of Los Roques, but Neri’s bag had drifted due west, slightly off their calculations. 

Now they are shifting the operation to the west and recalculating the search area based on the kite-surf bag’s path. The find has provided a valuable lead, but finding enough evidence to close the case remains a painstaking task. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)