TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A pilot was found dead after crashing in a Florida state park on Tuesday.
A Cherokee Piper 180, a small propeller plane, departed Kissimmee Gateway Airport at about 12:45 p.m. and travelled around 100 miles north toward Gainesville, according to a report from WUFT.
The plane crashed at around 2:10 p.m. near the town of Micanopy, south of Gainesville, according to a preliminary report from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Local officials scoured Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park, a sprawling swamp stretching 23,000 acres, for the missing plane.
Radio traffic recordings obtained by WUFT revealed that a male pilot asked air traffic control for help navigating through poor visibility around the time of the crash. He said was having trouble getting a clear reading from the instruments in the cockpit.
“I’m losing altitude,” the pilot said, according to WUFT. “I don’t think I can hold my altitude without descending. How many miles am I from Gainesville?”
The pilot asked air traffic controllers to tell his parents he loves them, according to WUFT. Other pilots in the area reported hearing him “pleading for help” over the radio shortly before the plane went down.
Officials found the plane, destroyed, in a wooded area of the park at around 5:15 p.m. The medical examiner’s office has not identified the pilot, an Alachua County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson said Wednesday.
The crash investigation has been turned over to the FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board.