'Putting a plea out there:' Family of missing Waukesha woman in Panama calls for more help

NOW: ’Putting a plea out there:’ Family of missing Waukesha woman in Panama calls for more help

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The family of a Waukesha woman who went missing after a plane crashed into the ocean off the coast of Panama is calling on U.S. government officials to provide more help as search efforts continue.

The plane crash happened on Jan. 3 when the aircraft was flying from an island off the coast of Panama back to the mainland. Of the five people onboard, three were rescued. But Debra Velleman of Waukesha and Sue Borries of Illinois have not yet been found.

"We're just putting a plea out there," Josh Velleman, Debra's son, told CBS 58 in a Zoom interview from Panama. "I think we've extended our resources."


Panamanian officials have led search efforts, but the Vellemans want more resources and help from the American government.

"We know there's resources that can do this, and we're just reaching out to everybody at this point," Josh Velleman said.

A U.S. State Department official told CBS 58 the department is aware of the situation and providing consular assistance to the families involved and the Panamanian government. Senator Tammy Baldwin's office said they, along with the U.S. Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board, have provided support.

Panamanian officials told CBS 58 in an interview they have received cooperation from the U.S. government and they do not intend to suspend search efforts at this point.

Anthony Velleman, Debra's husband, is recovering from a second surgery to treat injuries from the crash. The family said while there is a long road to physical recovery, he is expected to return to Wisconsin later this week.

The family hopes by raising awareness they are able to find the missing women.

"We have two Americans here that need to […] come home," Josh Velleman said.

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