- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 5, 2016

BROOKINGS, Ore. (AP) - The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended its more than 12-hour search for three people aboard a small plane that crashed in southern Oregon.

The agency said late Tuesday that Cessna 172F pilot John Belnap, his 17-year-old son Max, and a 17-year-old friend, Ryan Merker, remain missing.

Authorities believe the plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean because a backpack belonging to someone aboard was found on the beach near the Brookings airport. Other items believed to be from the plane also have washed ashore.

The plane was flying from Brookings to Grants Pass late Monday. Curry County Sheriff John Ward said the pilot’s wife, Cheryl Belnap, reported the plane missing after her husband didn’t arrive home in Grants Pass.

The last radar ping was within a few miles of the airport, Ward said.

The teens attended Grants Pass High School, and a vigil was held there Tuesday night, the Grants Pass Daily Courier reported.

Max Belnap is a top runner at the school, and Merker recently won a pole vault completion.

Merker’s father, Darren, told those at the vigil that he spoke with his son shortly before the flight.

“When he called us last night he said: ‘Mom, Dad. I have a chance to go fly for the first time, can I go?’”

They told him he could.

“I can’t keep him in a glass bubble,” the father said. “My last words to Ryan were, ‘I love you and have fun.’”

John Belnap is a nurse anesthetist at the hospital in Grants Pass, the newspaper reported. He and his wife, Cheryl, had four children, according to a 2012 article about Cheryl Belnap, who is a second cousin of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

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