Dean International flight school holds memorial for pilot killed in Everglades crash

Cause of crash that killed Mark Ukaere, 29, remains under investigation

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – The Dean International Flight Training school held a memorial Saturday for a student pilot who was killed in a plane crash in the Florida Everglades.

A picture of Mark Ukaere sat on a small table during the afternoon memorial at Miami Executive Airport in southwest Miami-Dade County.

There were candles, flowers and tears as other pilots remembered Ukaere as a kind friend. Robert Dean, the flight school's owner, said he was hoping the memorial would bring his students closure and provide a lesson about the importance of following the rules.

"So that also all the students know how something like this can be so deadly," he said.

Ukaere, who was born in Nigeria, took a single-engine Cessna 152 for a flight without permission. He was supposed to be flying with an instructor, but his girlfriend, Mercy Akinyemi, who lives in New Jersey, said he told her the instructor never showed up. 

Dean attributed the cause of the crash that killed Ukaere, 29, to spatial disorientation due to the darkness of the night over the Everglades.

Ukaere's body was found Wednesday near the wreckage. An alligator was lurking near his body.

The licensed pilot was working on an advanced certification. The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the cause of the crash.