Small plane crashes off Florida coast | The USA Print

Small plane crashes off Florida coast

A small plane crashed off the Florida coast in the Gulf of Mexico and the bodies of two men and two women were recovered, police said Thursday.

The plane had just taken off from the Venice airport when it crashed into the sea just west of the city’s fishing pier shortly after 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Venice police said at a news conference.

Several people on the dock saw the plane crash and called 911, police Capt. Andy Leisenring added. In addition, video recordings from the airport and the pier will be reviewed and turned over to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is conducting an investigation, he said.

Leisenring said police “were unable to deploy a diving team until daylight.” The plane — a Piper PA-32R — was seen shortly before noon under about 23 feet (7 meters) of water, he said. The teams also found the bodies of the two passengers.

Authorities identified the victims as William Jeffrey Lumpkin, 64, who was piloting the plane, Patricia Lumpkin, 68, Ricky Joe Beaver, 60, and Elizabeth Anne Beaver, 57. The Lumpkins were from Fishers, Indiana, and the Beavers of Noblesville, Indiana. The four were the only passengers on the plane, according to police.

Leisenring said the two couples left St. Petersburg and flew to Venice around 5 p.m. Wednesday. They parked the plane at the airport and had dinner with some friends at a restaurant on the pier. They returned to the airport after 9 p.m. and crashed shortly after 9:30 p.m.

Crews from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Sarasota Police Department and the United States Coast Guard were still searching for debris Thursday morning.

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The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been notified.

Venice is located about 58 miles (93 kilometers) south of St. Petersburg, on the coast of Florida on the Gulf of Mexico.

A family of three, a married couple and their daughter, died in a accident similar against Venice in December.

Leisenring noted that it was “unusual” for two plane crashes to occur in such a short space of time, but said it was too early to conclude whether or not there was a connection between them.

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