Pilot's husband remembers her courage

Published Dec. 25, 2005|Updated Dec. 26, 2005

The pilot of a seaplane that crashed and sank within sight of luxury high-rises, killing all 20 people aboard, was a courageous woman who loved to fly, her husband said Saturday.

Michele Marks "was one of those unique individuals that if you're fortunate in life to meet have this amazing combination of compassion, a love for life," her husband Mark told reporters at his Boynton Beach home.

Michele Marks and co-pilot Paul Joseph DeSanctis of Reading, Pa., had unblemished flying records with no accidents, incidents or enforcement actions against them before Monday's crash en route to Bimini in the Bahamas. The plane, operated by Chalk's Ocean Airways, crashed after its right wing separated from the fuselage, sinking under the waters off Miami Beach.

Mark Marks said Michele was captivated by planes as a little girl when she saw them flying over Cat Island on family trips. She had just gained the rank of captain this year, he said.

"Her dream as a career was to fly for Chalk's, but her love of aviation was far beyond what she did for a paycheck. She loved flying and being amongst the clouds. Her spirit is just unlike anyone I've ever met," Marks said.

Though the precise cause of the crash has not been determined, the Federal Aviation Administration said preliminary investigations have revealed stress fractures in the plane's right wing support.

Divers wrapped up a search Friday for small airplane pieces that remained on the ocean floor. Most of the aircraft was pulled from the water last week.

The FAA issued a bulletin Friday indicating it may require mandatory inspections of all seaplanes like the 58-year-old Grumman G-73 Turbine Mallard that Michele Marks piloted. Chalk's has voluntarily grounded its four other G-73 aircraft.

The company's only other crash involving fatalities occurred March 18, 1994, when two pilots died after their seaplane crashed near Key West.

Mark Marks said he expected a lengthy investigation.

"I couldn't even tell you anything about that. Nobody said anything to me. I've talked to the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board), but it's more about them asking me questions," Marks told the Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Marks he was overwhelmed by an outpouring of support at a service for his wife Friday afternoon.

"It's so hard to think about what's ahead without her," Marks told the AP. "I don't anticipate feeling good for a long, long time."

A boater discovered the last missing victim of the crash floating Friday in the Atlantic Ocean, 9 miles from where the plane went down, authorities said.

Miami Beach police have said Sergio Danguillecourt, 42, a director of Miami distiller Bacardi Ltd., was the only passenger unaccounted for before the body was found. They did not confirm the body's identity.