Body found next to debris of small plane in Florida Everglades

Owner of flight school says student pilot went on unauthorized solo flight

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor , Liane Morejon - Reporter , Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor , Andrew Perez - Reporter

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - A small airplane that apparently crashed in the Florida Everglades has been found.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the single-engine Cessna 152 was found in a swampy area about seven miles west of Homestead.

The FAA said the pilot was the only person on board.

Miami-Dade police Detective Argemis Colome said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue found the wreckage at about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.  

A view from Sky 10 showed a body in the swamp next to the wreckage. An alligator was wading next to the body that is believed to be of student pilot Mark Ukaere. 

"I don't want to believe that this thing has happened," roommate Patrick Shedrack said. "I don't want to believe that."

Shedrack said he realized something was wrong when Ukaere left Saturday from Miami Executive Airport and never made it to church the next day. 

"All he does is go to his college, (come) back home (and) on Sundays, church. That's all," Shedrack said. 

The plane was registered to Air Christian Inc. in Miami. The same plane was forced to make an emergency landing on U.S. Highway 41 in Collier County in December 2015.

A logo for Dean International Flight Training & Aircraft Rentals was on the side of the plane. The company is based at Miami Executive Airport. 

Local 10 News reporter Liane Morejon spoke to the flight school's owner, who said the pilot took off on an unauthorized solo flight Saturday night.

Robert Dean said he called different places he thought the pilot might have gone and people who might have been with him before contacting the FBI on Wednesday night.

"Every time anybody flies in the evening, they must fly with another pilot," Dean said.

Dean said he believes the pilot suffered from spatial disorientation as he flew in pitch darkness over the Everglades.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating the cause of the crash.

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