MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A student pilot's girlfriend is shocked and saddened after he was found dead Wednesday night next to a crashed single-engine Cessna 152 in the Florida Everglades.
The owner of the flight school he attended told Local 10 News that Mark Ukaere, 29, was not authorized to take the plane out alone on Saturday night.
"I don't understand. I'm very surprised. It's not like Mark to do that," Faridah Abubakar said.
Abubakar spoke to Local 10 News reporter Glenna Milberg Friday from Nigeria over Skype. She said she is left wondering why Ukaere would fly alone at night against flight school rules.
"Honestly, I don't know," she said. "It's a shock to me. He was not that kind of person."
Ukaere likely crashed the small plane Saturday night in the Everglades after he took out the plane without notifying superiors.
"Nobody from his family came to say the next day, 'Hey, he's missing.' No one asked us," flight school owner Robert Dean said. "All the roommates -- not a single person even came and said, 'Oh, you know, he's missing.'"
Dean, who owns Dean Flight Training, explained that a few days' trip is not unusual for students, and though he started checked around for Ukaere's location Monday and Tuesday, it wasn't until Wednesday that he made a formal report to aviation and law enforcement authorities.
"If you have any suspicion that someone has taken your aircraft for a bad purpose, then you call immediately," Dean said.
"But there was no reason for you to make that immediate reporting under the FAA rule because there were no suspicions at all?" Milberg asked.
"No, not at all. Not at all," Dean said.
A small memorial has been set up on a patio table at the school. A service is planned at the school at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
While the crash investigation is underway, Ukaere's motives for his solo night flight might never become clear.
"Flying late at night (and) not informing the school is violating protocol," friend and student pilot Moe Shinawi said. "I think what Mark did was wrong."
Dean said he believes his student suffered from spatial disorientation as he flew in pitch darkness over the Everglades.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash.