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Pilot of missing Keys plane feared dead; debris found on beach



By Kevin Wadlow, KeysInfoNet

Pieces of a private airplane that disappeared on a return trip from Marathon to Vero Beach have been found on a Martin County beach as the search for pilot Andrei Postelnicu continued.

"We have confirmed that the pieces recovered along the beach are pieces of the missing aircraft," Christine Weiss, spokeswoman for the Martin County Sheriff's Office, said Tuesday.

"So far we have located a total of three small pieces of an aircraft, one of which specifically ties it by model number to a Piper aircraft," she said.

The rented Piper piloted by Postelnicu left Florida Keys Marathon Airport late Friday afternoon and was expected to land at Vero Beach Municipal Airport shortly before 8 p.m., according to the Sheriff's Office and the Florida Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.

Postelnicu was in contact with air-control towers in Stuart and West Palm Beach around 8 p.m. Friday, the Palm Beach Post reported. But the aircraft, a single-engine Piper PA-28 Cherokee, never arrived. After it was reported overdue, Civil Air Patrol members began a search.

"Air searches on Monday were focused on the possibility that the aircraft crashed in the Atlantic Ocean or was ditched offshore," said a Tuesday report from Maj. Joseph Tomasone, spokesman for the patrol.

"We are continuing our search and are hopeful that we will locate both Mr. Postelnicu and his aircraft as soon as possible," Civil Air Patrol commander Lt. Col. George Shaefer said in the report.

Sunday, a backpack containing identification belonging to Postelnicu was found on a beach near Stuart, according to the Martin County Sheriff's Office.

"A newer boot that matches the same European size as the missing pilot washed ashore Sunday afternoon," Weiss said. "Search efforts have been challenging due to the rough waters, windy conditions and the large perimeter of the search."

The area covers about a 30-mile length of the Atlantic beach in Central Florida.

It was not certain when Postelnicu arrived in Marathon. A staff member at a Marathon fixed-base operation, which provides fueling and other services for private aircraft, said Tuesday that the firm cannot comment on any details of Postelnicu's trip to Middle Keys.

Several news reports describe the missing pilot as a native of Romania who emigrated to the United Kingdom, where he became a citizen.

Postelnicu is employed as a financial researcher and writer for Moody's Investor Service. Fluent is several languages, he previously worked as a business journalist for the Financial Times, and contributed to media outlets including Bloomberg News and BBC World Service.

He is a licensed pilot and active in several nonprofit causes.



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