MIAMI - Rescue crews searched an area southeast of Miami on Thursday after a pilot reported to the Federal Aviation Administration that a passenger fell out of his small plane into the ocean.
On Friday morning, the Coast Guard told Local 10's Jeff Weinsier they are not actively searching for that person. However, in a press released issued Friday morning, the Miami-Dade Police Dept. said their Marine Patrol has expanded the recovery efforts from Haulover Beach south to Turkey Point due to the currents and weather conditions.
FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen says the call came at 1:30 p.m. Thursday from the pilot of a Piper PA 46 aircraft. The plane was flying at about 2,000 feet when the call came in, she said.
"Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! I have a door ajar and I'm heading to Tamiami," the pilot told an air traffic controller in a transmission obtained from LiveATC.net. "I have a door ajar and a passenger that fell down. I am six miles from Tamiami."
"You said you had a passenger that fell out of your plane?" asked the air traffic controller.
"That's correct, sir. He opened the back door and he just fall [sic] out of the plane," the pilot replied.
Coast Guard and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue air and water units were searching an area about eight miles southeast of Tamiami Executive Airport, south of Miami, where the plane safely landed. It wasn't immediately clear where the flight originated. Investigators said the pilot was the only other individual on board.
Both the Coast Guard and fire rescue officials said it wasn't immediately confirmed that the pilot's emergency call was legitimate. The Miami-Dade Police Department sent detectives to the airport to further investigate, a spokeswoman said.
The Coast Guard said it had a small boat and a helicopter involved in the search. The fire rescue agency had three marine units and two aircraft, said Lt. Arnold Piedrahita, a fire rescue spokesman, but the air rescue units were later called off.
Officials said there was no reason to believe the man is alive as the search was called off Thursday evening. The recovery efforts were called off due to inclement weather and poor visibility, according to police, and will continue Friday morning.
The pilot was being questioned, authorities said. The names of the man and pilot were not released, nor was the relationship between the two.
According to an email from FAA spokeswoman Bergen, the pilot radioed air traffic controllers at Miami Terminal Radar Approach Control, which provides radar for flights within a 55-mile radius of Miami International Airport. The control center then notified the Coast Guard.
The plane is registered to Wings of Flight, LLC.
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