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2 dead, 1 missing after plane left St. Petersburg and crashed into Gulf

Authorities began search after an overdue Piper Cherokee didn’t come back to St. Petersburg airport.
The National Transportation Safety Board logo and signage are seen at a news conference at NTSB headquarters in Washington, Dec. 18, 2017. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating after a small airplane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast over the weekend, with two people confirmed dead.
The National Transportation Safety Board logo and signage are seen at a news conference at NTSB headquarters in Washington, Dec. 18, 2017. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating after a small airplane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast over the weekend, with two people confirmed dead. [ ANDREW HARNIK | AP ]
Published Dec. 5, 2022|Updated Dec. 6, 2022

VENICE, Fla. — Authorities were searching Monday for the pilot of a small airplane that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast, with two people confirmed dead.

Authorities in Venice, Florida, said they were looking for a 42-year-old man in an area offshore from the Venice Municipal Airport. The single-engine Piper Cherokee was reported overdue Saturday when it did not return to its origin airport in St. Petersburg.

Police Chief Charlie Thorpe told reporters on Monday that recreational boaters found the body of a woman floating about 2.5 miles west of the Venice shore. A 14-year-old girl’s body was found in the wreckage of the aircraft.

All three people were family members who had planned a dinner in Venice before returning to St. Petersburg, Thorpe said.

“The search is continuing for the male,” the chief said. “We are still working on it extensively.”

It’s not yet clear what caused the plane to crash, he added.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the plane crash, spokesperson Jennifer Gabris told the Tampa Bay Times Monday. The plane wreckage will be recovered and transferred to Jacksonville for further examination, she said.

Gabris said the board does not release the names of those involved in the accidents it investigates, but she said local officials may release that information. No local officials have released the names of the individuals involved in the plane crash by the time of publication.

The Federal Aviation Administration will release the tail number of the plane once it’s confirmed, Gabris said.

Investigators will request radar data, weather information, maintenance records and the pilot’s medical records, Gabris said. A preliminary report into the investigation is expected to be published 15 days after the crash, she said, but a full report could take up to two years to complete.

The county sheriff’s office, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Sarasota Police Department, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the District 12 Medical Examiner’s Office and the National Transportation Safety Board were involved in the investigation.

Times staff writer Michaela Mulligan contributed to this report.