Sumter native, Wilson Hall alum was on downed plane flying from South Carolina coast


Search efforts have been suspended for a downed aircraft that went missing about 110 miles east of Charleston on Thursday, carrying Joseph Allbritton Jr., a Sumter native and Wilson Hall alumnus.

After searching about 3,516 square miles over 76 hours for the Piper PA-31 twin-engine aircraft, The Coast Guard 7th District announced “with a heavy heart” it was suspending the search for the plane and its five passengers, according to Capt. John Reed, commander, Sector Charleston, on its website.

“I have spoken with the family of those that were on this plane and extend my deepest sympathies to them and all those who have been hit by this tragic loss at sea,” he said in a news release.

The aircraft was leaving from South Carolina to the Bahamas when the Jacksonville Air Route Traffic Control Center received a report from it of an “in-flight emergency, lost contact on radar and notified the AFRCC.”

Allbritton Jr.’s wife, Diana Schmidt Allbritton, posted on Facebook Sunday that her husband “was in a private plane that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday morning.” The Coast Guard has not released information about the plane’s occupants or owner, but several people have told The Sumter Item since Thursday Allbritton was a passenger.

Posts about his status on the flight across social media have not been made private from friends and family members.

“The Coast Guard gave us a final briefing late yesterday afternoon. After an exhaustive three-day air and water search, Search and Rescue ceased at sunset (about 6:30 p.m.),” his wife posted Sunday. “They were unable to retrieve anything related to the crash, in part due to difficult weather conditions including high waves, winds and the nature of the crash. The Coast Guard was in touch with us throughout the days and nights as they continuously searched for survivors. They were the most caring group of people and presented us information in a most humane way.

“Members of the Coast Guard prayed with us and shared tears.”

She wrote in the post that the Coast Guard news release did not include the names of the five lost “per the request of one of the other families.”

“We were not opposed to the release of Joseph’s name to the public, so please feel free to share this news with anyone who you think you should know,” her post continued. “Joseph traveled extensively with his job and always lived his life to the fullest and loved his career with everything he had.”

She wrote that the National Transportation Safety Board has taken over the investigation into the crash and that “hopefully whatever they discover can be used to help prevent a similar plane crash for people in the future.”

Allbritton, who has a young child with Allbritton Jr., said, “Our hearts are full from all the outpouring of love and support we have received from all of you.”