St. Petersburg Times---State and Metro

Two planes collide off southeast Florida; four bodies found

Associated Press, June 17, 2003 - 09:46 PM

Two single-engine planes collided and crashed into the sea at dusk Tuesday off southeastern Florida, and a private boater later recovered four bodies from the area, the Coast Guard said.

The bodies were found in two debris fields approximately 500 yards apart and one-half mile off this beach town about 15 miles north of Ford Lauderdale.

"We continue to search in hope of finding survivors," said Lt. Tony Russell, public affairs officer for the Seventh Coast Guard District.

Both of the planes were believed to have departed from Pompano Beach Airpark, said Assistant Chief Todd Leduc with Broward Fire/Rescue. He said search helicopters alternated using thermal imaging cameras and searchlights trying to find signs of survivors.

Petty Officer Ryan Doss, another Coast Guard spokesman, said a private boater first reported finding two bodies, then reported the other two.

The Federal Aviation Administration was investigating the reports, but had no immediate details or confirmation of a collision, said regional spokesperson Kathleen Bergen in Atlanta.

The Broward Sheriff's office did not immediately return phone calls.

A phone at Pompano Beach Airpark, which is between Deerfield Beach and Fort Lauderdale, rang unanswered.