A pilot asked air traffic control to tell his parents he loved them in a heartbreaking final radio conversation moments before he crashed and died.
The 21-year-old – who has not been publicly identified – was killed when his single-engine Cherokee Piper 180 crashed during poor visibility in Florida.
“I don’t think I can hold my altitude without descending,” the young man said over the radio in audio obtained by WUFT.
“How many miles am I from Gainesville?” he asked before crashing into Paynes Prairie State Park on Tuesday.
“I’m losing altitude,” he told the air traffic controller before asking him to pass on his message to his parents.
Kissimmee airport manager Ramon Senorans told the station that the plane took off under visual flight rules, requiring pilots to avoid clouds and remain at a minimum of 1,000ft.
The pilot was repeatedly warned that his destination airport was under instrument flight rules, meaning the flight must be conducted by navigation instruments and not visual references.
Officials say that after take-off the pilot encountered poor visibility and crashed into the ground at a speed of around 300mph.
The Federal Aviation Administration has not officially named the pilot and said in its preliminary report that the plane crashed due to “unknown circumstances.”
The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are investigating the accident.
Sheriff Emery Gainey explained that the bad weather and dense terrain had made it difficult to find the plane quickly.
“Obviously, because of the rain and the cloud cover, we can’t put our air officers up in the air. So, we’re having to do a ground search, and obviously, the terrain is really wet. It’s really thick, but we’re determined to make our way through to locate the plane,” he told reporters at the scene.