Bodies of missing Wisconsin, Illinois women found in Panama

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Panamanian officials announced Feb. 1 the recovery of the bodies of two missing Americans from a plane crash last month.

The Aeronautical Civil Authority of Panama said after more than 690 hours of searching, two bodies recovered this week were those connected to the crash that happened on Jan. 3. A family spokesman of one of the missing Americans confirmed the information to CBS 58.

Of the five people on the plane, three survived and were found immediately after the crash. But Debra Velleman of Waukesha and Sue Borries of Illinois could not be located.

During a near month-long search effort, families of the missing expressed frustration over the U.S. government's refusal to add more support, despite calls from Governor Tony Evers, Senator Tammy Baldwin and Congressmen Bryan Steil and Scott Fitzgerald. The search effort relied on leadership of Panamanian officials, as well as American volunteer organizations.

According to Panamanian officials, the Public Ministry will be moving ahead with extradition of the bodies.

"Our families welcome, with a tremendous sense of relief and gratitude, the news out of Panama this morning that our loved ones – Sue Borries and Deb Velleman – have been recovered," a statement from the Velleman and Borries family read. It went on to say, "this finally marks the beginning of our grieving process and provides us with a path to closure."

Full statement from the family below: 

"Our families welcome, with a tremendous sense of relief and gratitude, the news out of Panama this morning that our loved ones – Sue Borries and Deb Velleman – have been recovered.

While there are many individuals and entities to thank, we want to first and foremost thank Keith Cormican and his nonprofit organization Bruce’s Legacy, for the expertise, equipment, and tireless effort in successfully searching for the missing aircraft and completing this morning’s recovery in coordination with and under the supervision of local authorities in Panama. Our sincere thanks also go to Walter and Bernice Abadi and family, without whose support these results would not be possible.

It is our intention – almost exactly one month following this tragic accident – to give proper thanks to all those who supported our families during this difficult time, as well as to have many outstanding questions answered by way of a swift and thorough investigation. For now, however, this finally marks the beginning of our grieving process and provides us with a path to closure. Funeral services will be announced at a later date.

May the memories of Sue and Deb be for a blessing."
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