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The as-yet-unexplained disappearance last Friday of the plane carrying six passengers and crew, including Italian fashion mogul Vittorio Missoni, has prompted some to blame the "Los Roques curse".

The label has been attached to a series of mysterious plane crashes and "vanishings" over the past decade or so between the Caribbean archipelago of Los Roques and the Venezuelan capital Caracas, 140km to the south. Inevitably, comparisons have been made with the infamous Bermuda Triangle, the area between Miami, Bermuda and Puerto Rico that has long had a reputation for unexplained disappearances of ships and planes.

To date, no wreckage of Missoni's plane has been located since it took off from Los Roques for Caracas. A hotel owner on the islands said he last saw the plane – a twin-engine BN-2 Islander built in 1968 – entering a bank of clouds. Meanwhile, the Missoni family said it was not ruling out the possibility that the plane had been hijacked by local drug smugglers. Venezuela's civil aviation authority said the aircraft's last recorded position was 18km south of the Los Roques.

Since the mid-90s, there have been at least 15 reported incidents in which small aircraft have either crashed, disappeared or declared emergencies while travelling through the area. In 2008, 14 people were killed when a plane making the same journey as Missoni's crashed into the sea. No wreckage was ever found and only one body was recovered.

Speculation about possible explanations for the "curse" has ranged from basic pilot error through to the release of methane hydrates from the sea floor. The lack of evidence only fuels speculation.

Such mysteries are, of course, fodder to those with a conspiratorial mind. Other areas that have become renowned for unexplained disappearances include the Formosa Triangle, the Michigan Triangle, the Sargasso Sea, and the Devil's Sea off Japan.

But Nick Wall, editor of Pilot, says pilots are a pragmatic, rational lot who don't get distracted by talk of triangles and curses: "There's always some explanation for these things – even if it takes many years to uncover the answer. Pilots prefer to concentrate on the things that genuinely will help them live longer such as fuel gauges, weather reports and engine inspections. They are increasingly aware of previously unknown meteorological phenomena such as coastal wind shearing and mountain waves, which can cause sudden turbulence. But it is too early to know for sure what caused this latest incident."

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/shortcuts/2013/jan/07/los-roques-the-new-bermuda-triangle

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