JSO: 2 bodies found in wreckage from December plane crash

Dive team assists NTSB in recovering wreckage from ocean off Jacksonville

By Brittany Muller - Reporter, Corley Peel - Reporter

MAYPORT, Fla. - A plane that crashed in December with a father and son on board was recovered Wednesday from the ocean off Mayport. Divers with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office floated the wreckage of the small plane and towed it to shore.

On Wednesday night, the Sheriff's Office confirmed two bodies were located in the plane. Police said the medical examiner is working to positively identify them. 

The single-engine plane crashed Dec. 20 off the coast of Little Talbot Island, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The occupants aboard the missing plane were identified as Peter Renzulli, 51, of Bridgewater, and his 18-year-old son, Daniel. The Coast Guard said the aircraft was headed to New Jersey from Orlando.

RELATED: Father, son on plane that crashed in Atlantic Ocean

Working out of the Morningstar Marina in Mayport, JSO divers, working with National Transportation Safety Board investigators, began recovery efforts on Tuesday. They refloated the aircraft late Wednesday morning. At noon, they were slowly towing the aircraft to shore.

The wreckage was pulled out by a crane Wednesday afternoon at a marina in Mayport near the Coast Guard station.

Sky4 captured images Wednesday morning of several boats working with flotation devices about a half-mile offshore of Huguenot Park, where the water is about 40 feet deep.
JSO dive team in ocean

"My understanding that the Sheriff's Office has a sophisticated side-scan sonar that allows it to see very small objects underwater," said News4Jax aviation expert Ed Booth. "This being a 6,000-pound airplane, (it) was not an easy target to locate, but something within their capabilities." 

Booth believes the pilot ignored weather reports and said the crash could have been prevented.

"He had very little experience in the airplane," Booth said. "It's been reported that this was his first-ever flight without an instructor on board, so the pilot shouldn't have undertaken this flight."

Booth said divers had to deal with several factors during the search. He questions why investigators waited more than a month to continue their efforts. While the NTSB is one of the agencies affected by the partial government shutdown, it wasn't known if that contributed to the delay.

The NTSB is the lead agency investigating the plane crash. 

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