Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Search suspended for Tampa man, friend in plane crash

TAMPA — The numbers are grim. At eight hours, a healthy human being alone at sea enters a period of compromise. The U.S. Coast Guard's next measure of survivability: 13 hours, the time it takes for hypothermia to set in.

On Tuesday night, nearly 48 hours after officials believe the single-engine plane carrying a Tampa man and his friend crashed into the Gulf of Mexico, rescue crews suspended the search for them.

The families of Darien Peckham and Zachary Schlitt — one a medical researcher and breast cancer activist, the other a successful real estate developer — continued to hope for a miracle, even as Peckham's family planned a memorial for Thursday in Tampa.

''The Coast Guard sends its heartfelt sympathy to the families involved in this case," Lt. Cmdr. Tim Haws, Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg's Chief of Response, said in a prepared statement. "After exhaustive search efforts we were unable to locate the missing pilots and the difficult decision was made to suspend our active search."

Peckham, 34, and Schlitt, 28, were both certified pilots, but neither the Federal Aviation Administration nor the Coast Guard has determined who was flying when an airport traffic controller in Jacksonville reported losing radar contact with them at 6:45 p.m. Sunday.

Family members said the two were returning from a trip to watch football in Tallahassee. They were headed to Vandenberg Airport in Hillsborough County when they disappeared 20 miles southwest of Yankeetown.

Rescue crews concentrated their search in two areas where debris — a seat and a bag with aviation headphones — were found Monday. The full search area extended from Cedar Key to the north and Largo to the south and covered 2,800 square miles.

The water in those areas ranges from about a few feet to 35 feet in depth, and temperatures are about 70 degrees, said Coast Guard spokesman Robert Simpson.

The two men were in excellent health, family members said.

The Citrus County Sheriff's Office also used sonar to try locate them and the plane, owned by Eagle Squadron, Inc., a Hillsborough County flying club.

On Tuesday, family members maintained a vigil at the Coast Guard station in Yankeetown.

Among them were Schlitt's father, Ron, a commercial pilot who also is a former lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps and flew A4 Skyhawks.

At the Schlitt home in St. George Island in Franklin County, calls of support came in from friends and pilots around the world.

Pandora Schlitt's memories with her son included "lots of hunting and fishing together, lots of laughter, no regrets."

In Tampa Bay, Peckham's family members and longtime girlfriend, Karen Hohman, also waited hopefully for word of his rescue.

"He is an extremely capable pilot and has always been extremely cautious." Hohman said in a prepared statement. "My only concern and hope is that we find him. He is more loved than he could ever know."

To attend

Memorial service

A memorial service for Darien Peckham is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Sacred Heart Church at E Twigg and N Florida Avenue in downtown Tampa.

Search suspended for Tampa man, friend in plane crash 12/02/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 11:30pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tattooed 'Joker' accused of pointing gun at Miami traffic

    Bizarre News

    MIAMI — Police in Miami-Dade County have managed to arrest the Joker without Batman's help following reports of a green-haired man with tattoos on his face pointing a gun at traffic.

    This photo provided by the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department shows Lawrence Sullivan, who was arrested in Miami-Dade County, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, and charged with carrying a concealed firearm. Police say the self-described "tattoo model" was pointing a gun at moving vehicles. [Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department via AP]
  2. Deputies: Two men, teen intentionally set fire, left it to burn within Weedon Island Preserve

    Fire

    ST. PETERSBURG –– Two men and a teen face charges after deputies say they deliberately started a fire within Weedon Island Preserve last month.

    Adam Grote, 19, left, and Brandon Kholos, 20, along with a 17-year-old, face charges after deputies say they intentionally started a fire on April 15, 2017, that burned about six acres on Googe Island within Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersburg. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  3. Police chief: Manchester searches turn up valuable info in concert bombing

    World

    MANCHESTER, England — Home searches across Manchester have uncovered important items for the investigation into the concert bombing that left 22 people dead, Manchester's police chief announced Thursday, while other British authorities complained bitterly about information leaks blamed on U.S. officials.

    A police officer at the scene at an address in Nuneaton, England Thursday May 25, 2017 where they arrested a seventh suspect in the investigation into the Manchester Arena bombing. British police have arrested a seventh person in connection with the Manchester Arena bombing. The man was held Wednesday after police carried out searches in the English town of Nuneaton, which is about 161 kilometers (100 miles) south of Manchester. [Joe Giddens | PA via AP]
  4. Joe Henderson: Only unanimous jury vote justifies extreme act of execution

    Columns

    A ruling last week by the U.S. Supreme Court on Florida's death penalty law didn't generate a lot of chatter, but don't let that fool you.

    A jury recommended execution for Dontae Morris of Tampa by a 10-2 vote in one of his murder trials. The recommendation was unanimous when he was tried in the shooting deaths of two Tampa police officers.
  5. PolitiFact: Iowa's individual market is teetering, but it's not necessarily a sign Obamacare is collapsing

    Perspective

    Whatever your view of the health care debate, the news out of Iowa isn't good. In April, two large insurers, Wellmark and Aetna, said they would not offer health insurance policies on Iowa's federal health insurance marketplace in 2018. Medica, the only remaining insurer, recently said it too might pull the plug next …

    A protester outside a Cedar Rapids town hall meeting with Rep. Rod Blum, R-Iowa. (Getty Images)