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Plane reportedly carrying McFit gym tycoon disappears

October 22, 2022

Wreckage, thought to be from a plane carrying passengers from Germany, has been found off the coast of Costa Rica. The flight, reportedly carrying German fitness entrepreneur Rainer Schaller, had departed from Mexico.

The Piaggio P.180 Avanti airplane used by Rainer Schaller
The Piaggio P.180 Avanti plane took off from Palenque, MexicoImage: Markus Mainka/CHROMORANGE/picture alliance

Costa Rican authorities on Saturday announced wreckage had been found at sea thought to be that of a two-engine turboprop carrying five German nationals that went missing off the country's eastern coast.

Gym salon magnate Rainer Schaller was reportedly on the manifest of those on board, along with his partner and their children.

What do we know so far?

The small plane went missing on its way from Mexico to an airport in the east of Costa Rica on Friday. Preliminary search efforts had to be suspended overnight owing to bad weather, Costa Rican officials said.

"Twenty-eight kilometers from the Limón airport, in the Caribbean Sea, wreckage was located that apparently indicates that it is the aircraft. At the moment we have not located any bodies or people alive," Vice Minister of Public Security Martin Arias said. 

Local TV channel Teletica later cited the ministry as saying that two bodies, one adult and one child, had since been recovered. 

Public Security Minister Jorge Torres later said that all five passengers were believed to be German citizens, and the pilot a Swiss national. 

McFit spokeswoman Jeanine Minaty said the fitness company's founder and CEO Schaller was on the plane, the German newspaper Bild reported. His partner Christiane Schikorsky was also on board, along with their children, Bild said. Another man was also reportedly with the family.

"We don't know anymore at the moment," Minaty was quoted as saying.

The plane, a Piaggio P.180 Avanti, went missing on Friday evening some 33 kilometers (about 20 miles) from the coast on its way to the airport of Limon, a port city on Costa Rica's Caribbean coast. The aircraft took off from Palenque, a Mexican city popular with tourists for its archaeological ruins, two hours and 41 minutes before it lost communication with the guiding control tower near Limon.

McFit is Germany's leading gym chain

McFit is Germany's largest fitness chain, having more than 200 gym studios in Germany alone, plus centers in Austria, Italy, Poland and Spain. It has more than 1.4 million members.

Schaller was the owner of the organizing company of the electronic dance music festival Love Parade, at which 21 people died in a stampede in 2010 in the western German city of Duisburg. After that event, Schaller announced that the festival would be permanently canceled. The event was resurrected this year in Berlin by DJ Dr. Motte under a new moniker, "Rave the Planet," because the commercial rights to the "Love Parade" name lay with Schaller.

According to a 2019 investigation by German public broadcaster ARD, Schaller's net worth was estimated at around €250 million ($246 million). 

rc, msh/ar (AFP, AP, EFE)