MILAN, Italy, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- A U.S. F-16 jet was feared to have crashed in the Adriatic as traces of fuel were found in the Italian sea, local media reported on Tuesday.
Traces of fuel were found in the arm of sea between Cervia and Lido di Savio in the northwestern end of the Adriatic, where searches were currently underway on waters off a roughly a 9.5-mile stretch of coast, ANSA news agency reported.
Several patrol boats of the coastal guard were overlooking the area, while search teams of U.S. military officials were working with Italian military and civilian teams to locate the pilot under the assumption that the aircraft crashed.
The military aircraft, which was on a training mission from the Aviano airbase, a key NATO installation in northern-eastern Italy, lost radio contact with the U.S. Air Force on Monday night off the town of Cervia, and "presumably crashed in the Adriatic," according to Italian and U.S. media.
The headquarters of the 31st Fighter Wing, at Aviano Air Base in Italy, issued a statement saying the F-16 fighter had one pilot aboard when contact was lost Monday evening.
According to sources quoted by ANSA, the pilot had signaled a unspecified "problem" shortly before losing contact, and it was unclear if he managed to start the ejection process.
The failure could have been "so sudden and serious that the pilot did not have time to react and operate the device to eject, once established that the plane could not cause any risks to the population," sources of the Pagliano and Gori airport, which has jurisdiction over the flight operations of the U.S. base in Aviano, were quoted as saying.