Pilot found dead in Everglades sent last images from cockpit to girlfriend

Mercy Akinyemi: Pilot said he flew alone because instructor didn't show

By Sanela Sabovic - Reporter, Michael Seiden, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - While flying a single-engine Cessna 152, Mark Ukaere sent pictures to his girlfriend, Mercy Akinyemi, before crashing in the Florida Everglades. 

Akinyemi, who lives in New Jersey, said she warned him that it was getting dark. He sent her selfies Saturday from the cockpit.

"I asked him, 'Why did you have to fly alone? Because, I mean, you just landed. There's nobody on the flight with you,'" Akinyemi said. "He said the guy never showed up. His instructor never showed up."

It would be the last pictures he would send her. Ukaere, 29, died. Authorities found his body Wednesday. An alligator could be seen lurking near his body.

"Right now, everyone is confused," Akinyemi said. "Everybody is devastated right now." 

The plane belonging to Dean International Flight Training was destroyed. Ukaere, a licensed pilot, was working on an advanced certification. 

Robert Dean, the flight school's owner, attributed the cause of the crash to spatial disorientation due to the darkness of the night over the Everglades.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating. His friends organized a Saturday afternoon memorial at the flight school. 

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