A crew member of the North Charleston-based Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton searches for a downed civilian aircraft Oct. 27, 2018, about 110 miles east of Charleston. The aircraft, a Piper PA-31, was en route to the Bahamas from South Carolina when it declared an in-flight emergency and was lost on radar. Coast Guard/Provided

The Coast Guard on Sunday called the loss of a small airplane that was carrying five people when it went down near Charleston a "tragic loss."

The eight-seat airplane that took off in Georgetown County went missing Thursday morning more than 100 miles off the coast. Searchers had canvassed more than 3,500 square miles of the Atlantic Ocean by the time they ended the effort Saturday night.

"It is with a heavy heart that we suspend our search," Capt. John Reed, who commands the Coast Guard's Charleston station, said Sunday morning in statement. "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."

The twin-engine Piper PA-31 took off Thursday morning from the Robert F. Swinnie Airport in Andrews in western Georgetown County. It was bound for the Bahamas, authorities have said.

But as the plane traveled southward, its occupants reported an in-flight emergency to air traffic controllers, the authorities said. It fell off radar before noon southeast of Charleston.

For more than three days, the Coast Guard used airplanes, helicopters and ships to look for the plane. But it found no signs of a crash.

PA-31 (copy) (copy)

A Piper PA-31 similar to this was reported missing around 11:45 a.m. about 100 miles south-southeast of Charleston, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. Greg Goebel/Creative Commons.

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Andrew Knapp is editor of the Quick Response Team, which covers crime, courts and breaking news. He previously worked as a reporter and copy editor at Florida Today, Newsday and Bangor (Maine) Daily News. He enjoys golf, weather and fatherhood.