Families of missing Wisconsin, Illinois women urging US to help with search

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Families of two missing Americans, including a woman from Waukesha, are calling on the U.S. government to provide more resources for search efforts a week after a small plane crashed off the coast of Panama.

The crash occurred on Monday, Jan. 3. Four people and a pilot were onboard at the time. They included Anthony and Debra Velleman of Waukesha, Sue Borries of Illinois, Melisa Zachrich of the U.S. (this information has been updated after initial reports identified the passenger as Canadian instead of American) and a Canadian pilot.

The plane was flying from Isla Contadora to Punta Chame on the mainland when the plane crashed in the water.

Debra Velleman and Sue Borries have not yet been found.

The surviving people on the plane were transported and treated at local hospitals.

According to a Velleman family spokesman, Anthony Velleman had the first of two surgeries to treat injuries on Jan. 7 with another expected Jan. 10.

Panamanian officials have led search efforts for the missing since last week, but families of the missing want U.S. officials to do more.

"The Panamanian government has formally asked the United States for help in the search to recover the American citizens, but so far, exactly one week since the crash, the U.S. government hasn’t responded," a statement from the Velleman family sent to CBS 58 on Jan. 9 said.

The statement went on to say, "both the Borries family – U.S. military veterans among them – and the Velleman family implore their government to send the personnel and equipment required to bring these citizens home."

CBS 58 has reached out to the U.S. Embassy in Panama for comment but has not heard back.

The Vellemans, both 70, are longtime residents of Waukesha and in retirement. They were celebrating the new year on Isla Contadora before the crash occurred.

Full statement from the family below:

"The families of two American citizens—still missing after their plane crashed off the coast of Panama—are urging the United States government to help in the search to retrieve their missing loved ones.

The crash occurred on the afternoon of Monday, January 3. Two American passengers were rescued by Panamanian search and rescue teams, but 57-year-old Sue Borries of Illinois and 70-year-old Deb Velleman of Wisconsin have yet to be found.

The Panamanian government has formally asked the United States for help in the search to recover the American citizens, but so far, exactly one week since the crash, the U.S. government hasn’t responded.

The families of the missing women – both retired public-school teachers – are on the ground in Panama anxiously awaiting the return of their loved ones.

Panamanian authorities have been conducting a round-the-clock air, sea, and land search-- aware of the aircraft’s last-known coordinates-- but need help in locating the wreckage.

Both the Borries family – U.S. military veterans among them – and the Velleman family implore their government to send the personnel and equipment required to bring these citizens home."

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