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Posted: 8/11/2001 2:16:45 PM EDT
[center][b][blue][size=6]Two die in attempt to hijack sex plane[/b][/blue][size=6][/center] [b]Key West pilot survives ditching [/b] BY JENNIFER BABSON jbabson@herald.com KEY WEST -- A couple who chartered a small plane to have sex in it -- then tried to hijack it to Cuba instead -- died after a scuffle with the pilot sent the plane into deep waters Thursday in the middle of the Florida Straits, authorities said. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Couple attempts to hijack plane to Cuba -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The pilot, Thomas Hayashi, 36, of Key West, managed to scramble out of the plane and survive the crash, which occurred around 12:15 p.m. about 40 miles south of Key West. Federal and local investigators were still trying late Thursday to identify the two mysterious hijackers, who chartered the one-hour flight under the auspices of an amorous ``Mile High Club'' flying service touted on the Internet and in local newspapers. The plane they hijacked at knifepoint -- a single-engine 1968 Piper Cherokee -- had not been recovered as of late afternoon. By evening, the U.S. Coast Guard had called off a search-and-rescue effort in the vast waters near the Marquesas where the plane went down. The couple, described by one source as Hispanic and in their 50s, called Hayashi to request a Mile High Club excursion. Hayashi picked the couple up in his black Cherokee Laredo SUV from the west side of the terminal at Key West International Airport and drove them to a runway used by Seaplanes of Key West, another charter firm. The three then boarded the small plane without much notice, according to Seaplanes employees. [center[b]1[/b][/center]
Link Posted: 8/11/2001 2:18:52 PM EDT
FBI agents and Monroe County detectives late Thursday dusted Hayashi's vehicle for fingerprints but couldn't locate any other clues -- flight logs or photocopied driver's licenses -- that would help with the identities of the two hijackers. Pilots making local flights in and around the Keys aren't required to file flight plans or any other paperwork, as long as they do not enter prohibited areas such as the military's Air Defense Identification Zone, which separates U.S. airspace from international airspace. [center][b]PRIVACY FOR COUPLES[/b][/center] The six-seat plane had been converted, sources say, to a two-seater with a ``lounge'' area in the back and a partition behind the cockpit to provide privacy for couples. ``As the name might imply, we offer flights for couples to privately and discreetly join the Mile High Club,'' an ad for the service promised in one local newspaper. ``If we have to explain, you are on the wrong plane.'' About 15 to 30 minutes into the flight, the male passenger opened the partition and placed a knife at Hayashi's throat, ordering him to divert the plane south to Cuba, sources said. Hayashi proceeded to fly south. Then the experienced pilot tried to knock his attacker off balance by making the plane take quick dives and climbs. A scuffle in the cockpit ensued between Hayashi and the male hijacker -- who dropped the knife and accidentally broke the throttle handle, sources said. Losing altitude and stuck in a low-power setting, Hayashi radioed Mayday, telling air traffic controllers in Key West that he was preparing to dump the plane, but making no mention of the violent struggle that was unfolding at the controls. [center][b]2[/b][/center]
Link Posted: 8/11/2001 2:22:05 PM EDT
What he did next probably saved his life. ``He pushed open the pilot's door next to the cockpit'' and got out, said Marci Rose, a Key West attorney and friend of Hayashi's who spoke with him Thursday at the hospital. ``He came out really unscathed except for a lot of trauma and shock.'' A Coast Guard plane located Hayashi, who was surrounded by a fuel slick, and dropped him a life raft. The crew of a U.S. Navy helicopter that had also responded pulled Hayashi from the raft. He was taken to Lower Florida Medical Center, where he was listed in stable condition Thursday evening and later released. [center][b]HIJACKERS A MYSTERY [/b][/center] The two hijackers remain a mystery. A Coast Guard cutter and helicopter searched the area near where the plane is believed to have gone down for about five hours, but the passengers are believed to have sunk inside the plane in more than 600 feet of water, Coast Guard spokesman Luis Diaz said. Navy radar at Boca Chica Naval Air Station tracked the plane as it headed west toward the Tortugas and noticed the plane diverting south once it reached the Marquesas about 25 miles from Key West -- at about the time investigators say the male passenger on the plane pulled a knife on Hayashi. Hayashi flew about 15 miles south before the plane crashed. ``He totally saved his life,'' Rose said. ``He really did a little miracle.'' [center][b]End[/b][/center]
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