The Venice Police Department has confirmed a reported overdue aircraft has been located where it crashed in the Gulf of Mexico. The wreckage of a rented Piper Cherokee was found by air assets approximately 1/3 of a mile west offshore, directly west of the Venice Municipal Airport.
This investigation was initiated Sunday morning (12/4) after 10 a.m. with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) inquiry to the VPD to check with Venice Airport for an overdue airplane that had not returned Saturday night to its originating airport in St. Petersburg. At around the same time Sunday, recreational boaters located a deceased female floating in the Gulf, approximately 2.5 miles west of Venice Beach. Marine assets from multiple agencies responded to the area of the female search and recovery efforts for any other persons and/or plane wreckage. Just after 2 p.m., the missing Piper Cherokee was located. Divers from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office located a deceased juvenile within the plane’s passenger area. It is believed that a male pilot or passenger was also in the plane during the flight; however, he has not yet been located with the wreckage.
This is a very active search and investigation. Although VPD has information on the persons believed to have been in the aircraft, officials are not releasing that information as yet, pending proper family notifications and clearance from other involved agencies, including the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Search and crash scene assistance is ongoing from the Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Sarasota Police Department, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and the District 12 Medical Examiner’s Office.
At this time, search efforts are continuing for a potential missing male occupant, the search effort will continue until sunset and resume as conditions allow.
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