Tracking device helps Coast Guard rescue downed pilot off Florida coast

A pilot whose aircraft went down in the Atlantic Ocean about 15 miles off the Florida coast was rescued Thursday after rescuers used a tracking device to locate him.

The U.S. Coast Guard in a statement said it received a notification from a registered Personal Locator Beacon and the Federal Aviation Administration reported a downed plane.

Along with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, the Coast Guard deployed an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter Crew, the Coast Guard Cutter Finback, a 45-foot response boat crew, and a 33-foot special purpose law enforcement crew to follow the signal from the tracking device.

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The signal led the search teams about 15 miles east of Juno Beach, where they found 51-year-old Robert Lillard floating on a raft. He had been the only person on the plane.

The Coast Guard said Lillard had no reported injuries.

“This type of incident reiterates the importance of having a registered PLB to guarantee personal safety during air or sea transport,” Sean Connect, command duty officer for the Coast Guard’s 7th District, said in a statement. “Thanks to the PLB, Lillard was rescued, which prevented a bad situation from getting worse.”

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It’s unclear what caused the aircraft to go down. The incident is under investigation.

Authorities did not disclose what type of aircraft Lillard was piloting at the time of the incident.