MIAMI – Rescue crews searched an area southeast of Miami after a pilot reported to the Federal Aviation Administration that a passenger fell out of his small plane into the ocean Thursday.
FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen says the call came at 1:30 p.m. Thursday from the pilot of a Piper PA 46 aircraft. The plane was flying at about 2,000 feet when the call came in, she said.
Coast Guard and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue air and water units were searching an area about eight miles southeast of Tamiami Executive Airport, south of Miami, where the plane safely landed. It wasn't immediately clear where the flight originated or how many people were on board.
According to a recording on the website LiveATC.Net, the unidentified pilot calmly radioed "mayday, mayday, mayday," and told an air traffic controller a door was ajar.
"I have a door ajar and a passenger that fell down. I'm six miles from Tamiami," the pilot says.
"You said you've got a passenger that fell out of your plane?" the air traffic controller responds.
"That's correct, sir," the pilot responded. "He opened the back door and he just fell out the plane."
LiveATC.Net provides live air traffic-control broadcasts from control towers and radar facilities around the world.
Both the Coast Guard and fire rescue officials said they hadn't confirmed whether the pilot's emergency call was legitimate. The Miami-Dade Police Department sent homicide detectives to the airport to further investigate, said spokesman Javier Baez. Police have not indicated any evidence of foul play, however.
"We're still gathering as many facts as we can," Baez said.
The Coast Guard had a small boat and a helicopter involved in the search, but Petty Officer Jon-Paul Rios said they stopped searching about 7 p.m. when it got too dark.
The fire rescue agency had three marine units and two aircraft, said Lt. Arnold Piedrahita, a fire rescue spokesman. It wasn't immediately clear whether they were still searching or when they planned to stop for the night.
According to an email from FAA spokeswoman Bergen, the pilot radioed air traffic controllers at Miami Terminal Radar Approach Control, which provides radar for flights within a 55-mile radius of Miami International Airport. The control center then notified the Coast Guard.
Bergen said in an email late Thursday that she had no new information.