Search continues off Cedar Key for missing plane, passengers

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Body of pilot found Tuesday

By Sean Arnold

The Levy County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) continue to search for a missing plane and two of its passengers south of Cedar Key after the body of the pilot, 65-year-old Jasper Jerrels, was found Tuesday.

Jerrels, his fiancé Hue Singletary, and Jerrels' 17-year-old son were aboard a single-engine plane that left Brooksville Sunday morning headed for Cedar Key.

At 5:21 p.m. Sunday, the U.S. Coast Guard was informed the plane failed to arrive at its destination in Cedar Key, where it was expected to arrive at 12 p.m.

The Coast Guard suspended its search late Tuesday after Jerrels’ body was discovered.

As of early Thursday afternoon, neither Singletary nor Jerrels’ son had been found.

According to a report from the Coast Guard, a FWC marine unit located on Monday morning an aircraft seat matching the description of the interior of the missing plane, and search and rescue crews located a small debris field.

On Tuesday morning, a search helicopter crew located a deceased individual approximately six miles southwest of Cedar Key near the debris field. The body was later identified as Jerrels’.

No more parts of the plane have been discovered, according to LCSO spokesperson Scott Tummond, who said the search crews were dealing with “very rough” conditions on Thursday.

“We don’t have a timeline (for the search),” Tummond said. “We’re going to keep searching until it’s just not productive anymore.”

According to the Coast Guard, “crews from Air Station Clearwater, Station Yankeetown, Sector St. Petersburg, the Coast Guard Cutter Seahawk, Citrus County, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Levy County Fire and Rescue, and Cedar Key Fire and Rescue, alongside commercial salvage companies and multiple good Samaritans aided in the search.”

"We want to thank all of our local and state partners for providing professional support throughout our search efforts," said Capt. Holly Najarian, U.S. Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg commander, in a press release.