An Atlanta-based aircraft salvage company is enroute to East Milton, Florida to recover an unmanned Piper PA46-500TP Meridian that crashed into trees in a swampy area near a housing development there at 2120h Sunday night.
The Meridian’s commercial and instrument-rated pilot, who the FAA says parachuted from the aircraft about two hours earlier after issuing a fake distress call to air traffic control near Birmingham, Alabama, was arrested by US Marshalls Tuesday night in a campground in Quincy, Florida, 160mi east of the crash site (marker “B” on the map). Marcus Schrenker, the pilot, was found with one of his wrists slashed, though officials did not believe his injuries were life-threatening.
According to the FAA, Schrenker had called controllers during the flight and said the aircraft had encountered turbulence and that the windshield had imploded, cutting him. After no additional radio calls were sent, military aircraft were scrambled to intercept the Piper. Pilots reported that the Piper’s door was open and there appeared to be no one on board. The aircraft flew on for roughly 2h on autopilot before crashing in East Milton (marker "A" on the map").
According to press reports, Schrenker, is the focus of investigations regarding fraudulent business activities connected to his investment companies in Indiana and had attempted to fake his death.
After parachuting out of the six-seat turboprop, federal officials say Schrenker went to a residence in Childersburg, Alabama and told the homeowners that he had been involved in a canoeing accident. Police later took Schrenker to a motel in Harpersville, Alabama, not knowing he was a fugitive. By Monday, local law enforcement had been alerted to the situation but Schrenker had already fled the motel.
By Tuesday evening however, about 20 federal, state and local officers acting on tips had found Schrenker in the tent at the campground in Quincy. –ends-