Man steals van, tries to hijack airplane

Lakeland authorities stop man from hijacking small plane

By Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

LAKELAND, Fla. - Gregory A. Hoch did his best to get away, but police officers said it wasn't enough.  Lakeland Police Lt. Eric Harper told reporters that he had never experienced a chase like the one he engaged in Thursday afternoon.

A witness said Hoch threw down a bicycle he had been riding, jumped into a National Data and Surveying Services van and sped away. 

Hotch blew a tire on the 2008 Dodge van, but that didn't stop him from making it to the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, where he walked right through an aviation garage.

Harper ran after Hoch, who ran around several planes. Harper said Hoch jumped onto the wing of a 1978 Piper PA-28R Arrow that was preparing for takeoff.

Harper stopped Hoch right as he was entering the cockpit, but it wasn't easy. Hoch faces two counts of grand theft,  one count of trespassing, one count of burglary to an occupied conveyance and resisting arrest.

WPLG Local 10 News partner ABC Action News WFTS contributed to this report. 

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