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Mon, Jun 09, 2008

One Lost, Two Missing In C206 Nighttime Downing Near CDK

Aircraft May Have Lost Horizon During Late Night Approach

Sad news from northwestern Florida Saturday, as reports of a Cessna 206 down near Cedar Key were confirmed.

The aircraft was lost just after midnight Saturday morning with two passengers and one pilot aboard as the aircraft was on approach to the Cedar Key Airport (CDK). Witnesses reported seeing an orange fiery glow on the water after losing sight of aircraft position lights according to a report by the St. Petersburg Times.

Searchers recovered the body of passenger and aircraft owner John Borchard, 43, Saturday afternoon. His body and the wreckage of the Cessna were found a mile from the Cedar Key Airport in the Gulf of Mexico. Two others, including the pilot, have not been found and their names have not been released.

On Friday, the Cessna 206 departed from Plant City Airport (PCM) with a pilot, Borchard and two Tampa Bay area couples aboard, according to Cedar Key police Chief Virgil Sandlin. The trip to the small resort town of Cedar Key, 50 miles west of Ocala, FL was a wedding present for one of the couples.

Upon landing in Cedar Key, the group met two sisters, vacationing from Illinois and Iowa who were watching the sunset from the airport. The Tampa group asked the women for a ride downtown, and the eight people went to Frog's Landing, a popular restaurant in the town.

Upon leaving the restaurant, the vacationing sisters asked the group if they could return to the airport so one of them could take a flight and see the town at night. The pilot agreed, and took her and Borchard up as a favor to the sisters for driving them downtown.

"All it was was a courtesy fly," Sandlin said. The plane (type shown above) took off about 0030 local, while the rest of the group returned to the restaurant. The flight lasted about 15 minutes.

Upon returning to the airport, the group saw the blinking lights of the plane coming toward them from the west. Then, they saw an orange glow like a fireball on the water.

"They kept waiting for the plane to come in and it never did," said Sandlin.

The Federal Aviation Administration declared the plane overdue about 0200 and called the Coast Guard. An HH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station in Clearwater launched at 0330 along with a 27-foot rescue boat from Coast Guard Station Yankeetown in Levy County.

Borchard's body was found by a fisherman floating about a mile from the west end of Cedar Key Airport, 16 hours after the plane disappeared into the water, Sandlin said.

The George T. Lewis/Cedar Key Airport (shown below) has one runway, 2355 feet in length. The entire airport is surrounded by water, and both runways end at the water's edge. Pilots consider the airport a challenging one in general, but particularly at night -- as approaches are over water in a sparsely populated area, leaving little visual reference for a horizon. Additionally, reflections of stars in the water have led to disorientation.

As of 2005, records showed 47 crashes claiming 25 lives had been investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board in the area.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Citrus County Sheriff's Office are continuing the search.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.sheriffcitrus.org

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