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Woman survives hours in ocean after plane crash off Virgin Islands; 3 missing

A woman who survived the crash of an aircraft on Saturday spent hours in the ocean off the U.S. Virgin Islands before being rescued and crews were searching for three other people six miles south of St. Thomas, the Coast Guard said.

The twin-engine Piper Aztec had been delivering newspapers to St. Croix and picked up passengers before heading back to St. Thomas, David Mapp, interim Virgin Islands Port Authority executive director, told The Associated Press.

The Piper was reported overdue at 7:50 a.m. Saturday, Coast Guard spokesman Ricardo Castrodad, based in San Juan, Puerto Rico, told NBC News. He said it was unclear when the aircraft took off.

Aircraft in the area, including a C-130 Hurricane Hunter tracking Tropical Storm Rafael, reported a debris field, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

A Coast Guard helicopter spotted Valerie Jackson in the water about 2 p.m. local time and directed a Virgin Islands Department of Natural Resources boat to her. She told her rescuers that another woman and two men had been on the aircraft and she was taken to St. Thomas for treatment, the Coast Guard said.

The AP reported that Federal Aviation Administration records showed the plane's certification status had been terminated.

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