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4 people dead in plane crash off Florida coast

Ambulance (Dreamstime/TNS)
April 14, 2023

The bodies of four people have been recovered following a deadly plane crash off the coast of Florida earlier this month.

The small-engine plane fell into the Gulf of Mexico shortly after taking off from Venice Airport Wednesday night. The crash was reported to 911 by several people who saw it from the nearby pier, according to The Associated Press.

All four passengers on board died in the crash, according to authorities. The police identified the victims as William Jeffrey Lumpkin, 64, the pilot, along with his wife, Patricia Lumpkin, 68. The other two passengers were Ricky Joe Beaver, 60, and his wife, Elizabeth Anne Beaver, 57.

The Lumpkins were reportedly from Fishers, Indiana, and the Beavers were from nearby Noblesville, Indiana.

According to Venice police Capt. Andy Leisenring, the two couples left St. Petersburg, flying to Venice on Wednesday afternoon. The four people shared a meal with friends at a local restaurant before returning to the plane for takeoff before the accident.

The plane, reported as a Piper PA-32R, was found below 23 feet of water by police during a search early the next morning.

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The Sarasota Police Department stated that its Marine Patrol officers spent the night assisting Venice Police, the City of Venice and the Sarasota Sheriff’s Department in the search operation. The department also posted a video and a picture from the search efforts.

The Sarasota Sheriff’s Department also posted images from the recovery efforts that involved numerous agencies off the coast of Venice.

National Transportation Safety Board has been given footage of the accident and is conducting an investigation, the AP reported. No other details have been shared regarding the potential cause of the crash.

“We’re under the purview of the FAA and we can’t restrict operations in any way,” Venice Airport Director Mark Cervasio told Fox 13. “That’s the pilot’s choice if they want to take off at night facing the Gulf that’s their choice. If they think they can handle it, they do it.”

A second plane crash occurred at the Venice airport in December, with three people found dead off the coast of Florida. All three individuals were family members returning to St. Petersburg from Venice.

Boaters discovered the body of the woman aboard floating over two miles away from the shore. The body of her daughter was found in the aircraft wreckage, with the body of the husband, who piloted the plane, remaining missing.