The bodies of two men and two women have been recovered after a small plane crashed off Florida’s Gulf Coast, police said Thursday.
The plane had just taken off from Venice Airport when it crashed into the Gulf of Mexico 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 pier saw the plane crash and called 911, Venice Police Capt. Andy Leisenring said. In addition, video footage from the airport and 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 dive team until it was daylight.” The plane, a Piper PA-32R, was spotted just before noon in about 23 feet of water, he said. The crew also found the bodies of two female passengers.
Authorities have identified the victims as William Jeffrey Lumpkin, 64, who was piloting the plane, Patricia Lumpkin, 68, Ricky Jo Beaver, 60, and Elizabeth Ann Beaver, 57. Indiana. The police said that the four were the only passengers on the plane.
Leisenring said the two couples left St. Petersburg for Venice around 5 p.m. Wednesday. They parked the plane at the airport and had dinner with their friends at the restaurant on the pier. They returned to the airport after 21:00 and crashed shortly after 21:30
Crews from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Coast Guard continued to search the debris field Thursday morning.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board have been notified.
Venice is about 58 miles (93 kilometers) south of St. Petersburg on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
A family of three – a couple and their daughter – died in a crash near Venice in December.
Leisenring called it “unusual” to have two crashes in such a short period of time, but said it was too early to determine whether or not they were related.