PAGO PAGO, American Samoa >> Nearly a hundred people gathered on a ferry Sunday off the coast of American Samoa during a memorial service honoring the Indiana teenager who died and his father who is missing after their plane crashed during an attempt to circumnavigate the world.
The body of 17-year-old Haris Suleman was found shortly after his plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday after leaving Pago Pago. U.S. Coast Guard officials on Sunday said they were suspending the search for 58-year-old Babar Suleman.
Haris Suleman had hoped to set the record for the fastest circumnavigation around the world in a single-engine airplane with the youngest pilot in command. His journey also was a fundraiser to help build schools in his father’s native Pakistan.
“Such challenges of circumnavigating the world, an enormous contribution to build schools, are charities of those with great hearts, and unconditional love to society,” American Samoa Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga said during the memorial service.
“American Samoa shall remember the Suleman family in our prayers,” he said.
Among the attendees were three members of the Suleman family and a family friend who traveled from Canada. The memorial service and a wreath-laying were held at the site where local authorities believed the plane crashed.
As the ferry rocked back and forth amid drizzling rain and high waves, the Suleman family laid six wreaths at sea, and a choir sang hymns.
Nabel Raazi, the family friend, spoke on behalf of the Sulemans. He said the last few days had been “a terrible, harrowing experience for the family, who is still in great shock. It will take a long time of grieving to overcome this,” he said.
He also said the family is still hopeful that Babar Suleman can still be found.
“We are still hoping for a miracle from God to find him alive,” Raazi said. “There is a lot more to be done before the family can begin the process of healing.”
Rear Admiral Cari Thomas said in a statement Sunday that the decision to suspend the search for 58-year-old Babar Suleman was “difficult.” The Coast Guard said Thursday it had found wreckage from the plane.
Babar Suleman had long dreamed of flying around the world. He and his son decided to make the adventure a fundraiser for the Citizens Foundation, which has built 1,000 schools in Pakistan.
The two left Indiana on June 19 and had been expected to arrive back in the U.S. on Saturday.