— The small plane carrying only its American pilot disappeared 10 days ago just miles from a refueling stop at a West African island in the middle of a tropical storm of thunder and lightning.
Since then, searches with a plane and boats have found no trace of the pilot, 54-year-old missionary Jerry Krause, or the twin-engine Beechcraft 1900C that he was flying from South Africa to Mali.
Krause's family in Mali, where he has lived for 16 years, and in Waseca, Minnesota, believes he is alive and could have landed in hostile territory.
"After much research and digging, there is a 50 percent chance that Jerry's plane crashed," says a message posted Wednesday to their website www.findjerry.com .
"That other 50 percent is the probability that he was captured and forced to fly for some drug lords or guerrilla members. There is evidence now to support both scenarios."
Family members reached by email would not elaborate on any possible evidence, and the suggestion could not be immediately backed.
The posting said that a missing person's report has been filed in the United States so that the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board can start an investigation into Krause's disappearance.
The Krauses have launched a multifaceted campaign to "find Jerry." Family members are lobbying officials, posting messages on social media and using the Internet to encourage a relay of prayers for his safe return.
Krause's last contact was apparently with the control tower at Sao Tome island, a couple of kilometers north of the equator and 150 miles (240 kilometers) from the coast of Gabon.
"We have no idea what happened to him," Januario Barreto, the control tower chief, told The Associated Press by telephone Wednesday.
He said Krause called in to say he was 9 miles (14 kilometers) from the island when lightning struck the tower and knocked out the power. That was just before 4 p.m. local time (1600 GMT), still in daylight, on Sunday, April 7. When generators kicked in, soon afterward, Krause could no longer be reached, Barreto said.