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Costa Rica ends search for downed plane carrying German fitness billionaire

By AFP
02 November 2022   |   9:09 am
Costa Rican authorities on Tuesday ended the search for the plane in which German billionaire Rainer Schaller and his family were travelling, nearly two weeks after it crashed in the Caribbean.

Rainer Schaller PHOTO: Getty Images /Sergio Ramos BY

Costa Rican authorities on Tuesday ended the search for the plane in which German billionaire Rainer Schaller and his family were travelling, nearly two weeks after it crashed in the Caribbean.

The small plane — carrying six people — flew from Mexico on October 21 and disappeared from radar as it was trying to land at the airport in the eastern Costa Rican province of Limon.

A source with the public security ministry had told AFP that “Schaller, adult male, 53 years old” and five others were listed as being on the aircraft.

The next day, the remains of a minor and an adult were found 28 kilometers (17 miles) off Limon’s coast, as well as several parts of the aircraft fuselage and personal belongings like bags and backpacks.

“After 11 days of continuous operation, the different institutions of the Ministry of Public Security, Air Surveillance, Coast Guard and land police have concluded (the search efforts) as no more evidence has been found,” said Vice Minister of Public Security Martin Arias in a video released to the press.

“Today, November 1, we are officially closing the search case of the plane crash in the Caribbean.”

Schaller was the founder of McFit gym chain and, according to the German newspaper Bild, was travelling on the plane with his partner and two children, as well as another man. All were of German nationality. The pilot was Swiss.

Minister of Public Security Jorge Torres said Tuesday that the families “of one of the victims who lost his life in the accident” were taken to the site where the plane is believed to have crashed.

“There, they found a little bit of peace — they prayed and I believe they found some closure,” Torres said.

He did not specify the identity of the victim nor did he say if the two bodies found had already been identified.

Starting in the late 1990s with just a single gym in the German city of Wurzburg, Schaller grew his low-cost McFit chain into the largest fitness group in Europe.

In 2020, his company acquired the major US fitness chain Gold’s Gym, bringing its global footprint to more than 900 facilities on six continents.