The plane crash happened on January 3 off the coast of Panama.
Two American women remain missing more than a week after their plane crashed off the coast of Panama, as their families plead with the United States government for help with recovery efforts.
Debra Ann Velleman, 70, of Waukesha, Wisconsin, and Sue Borries, 57, of Teutopolis, Illinois, both retired teachers, were part of a community of snowbirds and expatriates living in the Chame area, in Panama.
The two friends were traveling with their husbands to Chame after spending New Years weekend at a bed and breakfast on Panamanian island Isla Contadora on January 3 when the crash occurred. The small plane, flown by the owner of the guesthouse, suffered an engine failure and crashed off Chame, according to friends and family.
Their husbands, Anthony Velleman and Dennis Borries, as well as the pilot have been rescued by Panamanian search and rescue teams, although the women have yet to be found despite continued search efforts, according to Albert Lewitinn, a representative. of the Velleman family. The women are believed to be in the unrecovered plane wreckage, he said.
The Panamanian government had asked the United States to deploy assets including Navy rescue divers and sonar to assist with search efforts and locate the wreckage, but the request was denied this week due to a lack of resources and skills, according to a statement from the family.
Families continue to “plead” for the US government to send supplies and personnel to help with search and recovery efforts.
“The only acceptable outcome is for our loved ones to be found and recovered so that our families can begin the long and difficult process of grieving,” the Borries and Velleman families said in a statement. “Until our loved ones are picked up and brought home, this cannot happen. It is the duty of the United States government to provide the help we so badly need to make it happen.”
ABC News has contacted the U.S. Embassy in Panama for comment.
The Velleman family have been in contact with two of their representatives from Wisconsin, Senator Tammy Baldwin and Representative Scott Fitzgerald, as they sought help with the search and recovery efforts.
Baldwin’s office told ABC News it had contacted the Embassy and the State Department “to share our concern that Ms Vellemen has yet to be located.” The office said it had also contacted the US Coast Guard and the Department of Defense “to urge them to deploy and use any resources that may be available to assist with the search effort.”
According to Baldwin’s office, the US Coast Guard provided Panamanian authorities with technical modeling to support the search for the plane.
“The State Department, through its embassy in Panama City, is working in close coordination with the National Transportation Safety Board and the USCG to support the Panamanian search operation,” Baldwin’s office said. “The United States Embassy also maintains contact with the families of the missing and the Panamanian government throughout this response.”
A spokesperson for Fitzgerald’s office told ABC News he could not comment on the pending cases.
The surviving passengers continue to recover after the accident. Anthony Velleman will be returning to Wisconsin by air ambulance after undergoing spinal surgery in Panama and “will need months of extensive medical attention,” Lewitinn said.
Meanwhile, the two sons of the Vellemans seek to close.
“It’s been a week and they are US citizens,” Josh Velleman told ABC Milwaukee affiliate, WISN, from Panama. “I think the United States should do the right thing, bring these Americans home, where they belong.”