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Pilot's mayday message: Passenger fell from plane off Florida coast

By John Branch and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
November 15, 2013 -- Updated 1325 GMT (2125 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Search -- described as recovery mission -- called off for the night
  • Pilot: "He opened the back door and he just fall down the plane"
  • Pilot tells authorities a person fell out at 1,800 feet
  • Coast Guard: "We have no indication at this time of how he fell out"

(CNN) -- A pilot's mayday distress call sent rescuers scrambling to an area near Miami on Thursday to search for a passenger who reportedly fell out of a small plane.

"He opened the back door and he just fall down the plane," the pilot said, according to a recording of his conversation with air traffic controllers.

The pilot said he was flying at 1,800 feet about two miles from the shore when the man fell on Thursday afternoon.

Miami-Dade police spokesman Javier Baez described the search as a recovery mission, saying it was unlikely the man could survive a fall from that height.

The search was temporarily called off Thursday night and is expected to resume Friday at daybreak.

Authorities did not release the 47-year-old pilot's name or the identity of the man believed to be missing.

A police spokeswoman said it was unclear whether the man accidentally fell out of the plane or deliberately jumped.

The Piper PA-46 -- a private plane -- went on to land safely at Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Baez declined to say whether the owner of the plane was on the flight.

Investigators were questioning the pilot at the airport. Homicide detectives, who are involved in all death investigations, also responded, Miami-Dade Police spokeswoman Sgt. Robin Pinkard said.

The pilot first told air traffic controllers that a door was open on the plane, then added that a passenger had fallen out.

"I have a door ajar," he said, "and a passenger that fell down."

CNN's Alina Machado, Mike M. Ahlers and Brian Rokus contributed to this report.

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