A small twin-engine Cessna 421 whose pilot is believed to have become unconscious mid-flight crashed into the Gulf of Mexico Thursday afternoon after circling above the water for more than three hours.
CNN reports that the aircraft was en route to Sarasota, Fla., from Slidell, La., with only the pilot on board when it went down, according to the FAA. An NBC affiliate in New Orleans is reporting that the pilot was Peter Hertzak, a local OB-GYN in Slidell. There was no immediate word on whether the doctor survived the crash.
The plane prompted a scare earlier in the day when federal authorities spotted it flying erratically and the pilot did not respond to radio calls. Authorities sent a pair of F-15 fighter jets to check in on the plane and the Air Force pilots reported that the Cessna's windows had become iced over.
The Associated Press reports that the plane crashed around 12:10 p.m about 120 miles west of Tampa. The plane, registered to Lee H. Aviation in Wilmington, Del., had been circling at an altitude of about 28,000 feet. The aircraft landed relatively softly in the water and remained intact, floating right side up, according to the Coast Guard.