• The plane had only 4 passengers
  • Venice Airport director said the weather was clear for take-off
  • The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash

Two men and two women were killed after a single-engine aircraft crashed into Florida's Gulf of Mexico shortly after take off.

The Piper PA-32R aircraft crashed about a half-mile off the fishing pier as it took off from Venice Municipal Airport, which is located along the Gulf of Mexico shoreline, around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. It was returning to St. Petersburg, Florida, according to IndyStar.

As bystanders on the pier saw the plane crash, they immediately called 911, Venice police Captain Andy Leisenring said during a press conference.

Responding officers initially recovered the bodies of pilot William Jeffrey Lumpkin, 64, and Ricky Joe Beaver, 60, Wednesday with plane debris, according to WFLA.

Leisenring said the police were unable to deploy a dive team until daylight. The plane was located under about 23 feet of water around noon Thursday, he added. After an intense search, they also found the bodies of 68-year-old Patricia Ann Lumpkin and 57-year-old Elizabeth Anne Beaver.

"At 11:56 am, divers located the main portion of the aircraft, as well as two bodies," Leisenring said.

Lumpkins, from Fishers, Indiana, and the Beavers from Noblesville, Indiana, were the only four passengers of the plane.

Leisenring revealed the two couples flew from an airport in St. Petersburg to the Venice Municipal Airport around 5 p.m. They paid a parking fee at the airport, following which they had dinner with friends at a restaurant in the area, as per WRTV.

"We've been in contact with the victims' families," Leisenring said during the press conference. "And certainly our hearts go out to them as they deal with this tragedy."

The National Transportation Safety Board launched an investigation into the accident and will review the video footage from the airport and the pier. According to the Venice Airport director Mark Cervasio, the weather was clear for take-off and the airport faced no issues. Responding to the crash, he called it "gut-wrenching."

"We don't have a control tower at the airport," the director said, "so the runway that is used is up to the pilot, so it is up to them which runway they are going to use. Usually, that is based on the direction of the winds."

Responding officers from the U.S Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Sarasota Sheriff's Office searched the debris field until Thursday morning to investigate the source of the crash.

The recent incident has come around four months after a another plane crashed along the Venice coast, killing three people. Leisenring termed it "unusual" that two plane crashes took place within a short period, affirming that there was a connection between them.

Plane Crash
Plane Crash/Representation AFP / Arunchandra BOSE