MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) — Miami-Dade police say they believe they have found the body of Gerardo Nales, the man who fell or jumped from a plane, but are awaiting “official identification.”
At approximately 10:30 a.m., Miami-Dade Police Department Homicide Bureau confirmed, that Marine Patrol Units located a body of a person in the mangrove area just south of Southwest 184 Street on the ocean side.
“Of course we cannot identify him to be the body of Gerardo Nales. We’re waiting for the medical examiner to provide official identification of who this is,” explained Detective Alvaro Zabaleta with Miami-Dade Police.
The body was found by a Miami-Dade Marine Patrol boat searching for Nales. Crews had been searching since Thursday afternoon when a pilot reported Nales fell from a plane.
The passenger of a piper aircraft somehow fell from the plane and into the ocean below on Thursday not long after the flight took off from Tamiami Airport.
“The details involved in the incident raise a lot of questions,” said Zabaleta. Officially, police are calling this a death investigation; however, a senior law enforcement source tells CBS 4 News investigators are working this case as a suicide and they do not suspect foul play. According to the source, Nales, 42, of Key Biscayne, was having family issues and suffering from depression.
The pilot of the plane in question lives in Coral Gables. A woman at the home identified the pilot as Felipe De Jesus Fons.
The call for help came Thursday afternoon, when the pilot of a Piper PA 46 aircraft radioed “mayday, mayday, mayday,” and told an air traffic controller that a door was ajar and a passenger had fallen from the plane.
In radio transmissions on the website LiveATC.Net, the unidentified pilot calmly radioed the air traffic controller. LiveATC.Net provides live air traffic-control broadcasts from control towers and radar facilities around the world.
“I have a door ajar and a passenger that fell down. I’m six miles from Tamiami,” the pilot said.
“You said you’ve got a passenger that fell out of your plane?” the air traffic controller responded.
“That’s correct, sir,” the pilot responded. “He opened the back door and he just fell out the plane.”
“It’s reasonable, anybody that falls from an aircraft without a parachute turns into a recovery effort and not a search and rescue,” explained Lt. John Jenkins with Miami-Dade Police.
FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the call came at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. The plane was flying at about 2,000 feet when the call came in.
Crews began searching an area about eight miles southeast of Tamiami Executive Airport, south of Miami, where the plane safely landed.The search expanded from the waters off Haulover Beach all the way south to Black Point Marina.
The plane, with some damage to its wing, remains at Tamiami Executive Airport.
Police spokesman Javier Baez said they have no evidence of foul play, and are gathering as much evidence as possible.