Coast Guard crews saw no signs today that the pilot of a small plane survived when it went down in the Gulf of Mexico about three hours after two F-15 fighter jets tried to make contact with him. The plane landed right-side up on the ocean surface and had been floating right after the crash, said the Coast Guard chief. Planes reportedly did not see a life raft deploy or anything to indicate the pilot—the lone person aboard—was alive. The military pilots reported that the plane's windshield had been iced over.
The Cessna 421C later sank into the Gulf about 120 miles west of Tampa in about 1,500 feet of water. The FAA says the plane was flying from Slidell, Louisiana, to Sarasota, Florida. Controllers reportedly lost contact with the pilot at 9am, and the Coast Guard said it went down about 12:10pm. Authorities haven't identified the pilot, but an airport mechanic said Peter Hertzak, an OB-GYN near New Orleans, was the only person who piloted the plane. It was traveling in circles over the Gulf before going down.