(Adds family statement, coastguard comments)
MILAN/LOS ROQUES, Venezuela Jan 7 The family of
missing Italian fashion boss Vittorio Missoni said on Monday
they still believed he was alive, three days after his plane
disappeared off the coast of Venezuela.
The small twin-engine aircraft carrying Missoni, 58, his
wife Maurizia Castiglioni, another couple and two Venezuelan
crew members went missing on Friday after taking off from the
island resort of Los Roques.
"We are full of hope and confidence for the work that the
authorities have done so far. We will not give up," Missoni's
sister Angela wrote in an emailed statement to the media.
"We believe Vittorio, Maurizia, Elda and Guido are still
alive!" Angela also wrote on Twitter. "Please help us find them
and bring them back home."
Missoni, a sports lover known for his informal looks and
charming smile, is the oldest son of the founders of the fashion
house famous for its exuberantly coloured knits featuring bold
stripes and zigzags.
He is the firm's co-owner with siblings Luca and Angela, who
handle the technical and design sides of the firm.
Luca Missoni, who is also a pilot, was flying over the area
to help with the rescue effort together with Alberto Piantoni,
chief executive of the fashion house, Angela said.
Venezuelan rescue divers were searching the aircraft's last
determined location, while searches also continue on the ground.
Captain Raul Rivas, Coast Guard Commander in Los Roques,
said the son of a jewellery designer and owner of an
international hotel chain was also believed to be on board
alongside Missoni, his wife and their friends Elda Scalvenzi and
The pilot of a Cessna 402 that took off a minute after the
Britten Norman BN2 carrying Missoni said he saw the plane as it
disappeared into a cloud.
"I saw them right in front of me as they were swallowed up
by a huge cumulus cloud," pilot Enrique Rada told Turin daily La
Stampa in an interview published on Monday. "It was a lightning
bolt. It must have been a lightning bolt."
However Rivas said the weather conditions were favourable
when the aircraft disappeared.
"The sun was good at that moment and the atmospheric
conditions couldn't have been a determining factor if the
aircraft had a problem," the captain said.
The company said it would go ahead with a Milan fashion show
on Jan. 13 but the family may not attend. Family-owned Missoni
posted sales of 70 million euros ($91 million) in 2011.
($1 = 0.7666 euros)
(Reporting by Jennifer Clark and Antonella Ciancio in Milan;
Additional reporting by Javier Andres Rojas in Los Roques and
Andrew Cawthorne in Caracas; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)