The three victims aboard a small plane that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico after a family dinner in Venice have been identified.
Christian Kath, 42, his wife Misty Kath, 43, and their daughter Lily, 12, had left their home in St. Petersburg Saturday afternoon, rented a plane and flew down to Venice. The family of three never returned home.
Police identified the St. Petersburg family in an update on Facebook Tuesday morning.
Just after takeoff, the single-engine Piper PA-28 Cherokee crashed into the Gulf about a third of a mile off Venice Beach — just west of the airport and Venice Fishing Pier.
Police say they didn’t receive 911 calls about the plane crash. But just as they got information from the FAA at 10 a.m. Sunday about the overdue plane to St. Pete, recreational boaters and divers found Misty Kath’s body about 2 1/2 miles off Venice Beach.
A massive search effort that has included the Venice Police Department, Sarasota Sheriff’s Office, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Venice Fire Department, Sarasota Police Department and U.S. Coast Guard got underway. About four hours later, a sheriff’s office helicopter spotted the plane’s wreckage in about 15 feet of water, and divers found 12-year-old Lilly Kath’s body inside.
Venice police have expanded the search area for Christian Kath, who was piloting the Piper Cherokee, but they scaled back resources after consulting with the Coast Guard.
Boaters on the water anywhere from Sarasota Bay south to Gasparilla have been asked to be aware of the missing pilot and plane debris in the water. Anyone who spots anything should call the Coast Guard using marine radio on channel 16.
Divers continued to search the crash area Tuesday as police officials remained in contact with family members.
Wreckage pulled out of Gulf
The Piper Cherokee that Christian Kath rented and piloted was pulled from the water Monday evening. The plane then was taken to a secure National Transportation Safety Board facility in Jacksonville as part of the investigation.
The NTSB is leading the investigation into the crash as it does all plane crashes in the U.S.
Loved ones mourn new pilot, family
Loved ones began posting condolence messages on Christian Kath’s most recent Facebook post after the three were identified as victims of the crash.
Christian Kath was the chief operating officer of Daniel Health, a global waste management company founded in Australia with U.S. support office in Chicago and facilities in Orlando and West Palm Beach.
His wife, from Suava, Fiji, moved to Australia in 2016 where she later graduated from Brigidine College and the University of Queensland.
The couple had another daughter, according to their Facebook posts, who was not on the plane.
Christian Kath’s last Facebook post, dated March 21, shows him in front of a Piper Warrior. He shares how he just flew alone for the first time. A childhood dream to learn to fly, Kath said he began taking flying lessons in December 2021 and was halfway to getting his private pilot license as of March.
“Thanks for putting up with my early morning lessons and late night studying Misty Kath; it will all feel worth while when we can fly to the Keys for a weekend away with Lily and Harper soon,” Kath went on to say to his wife, tagging her in the post. “Feel lucky to live and be learning to fly in such a beautiful part of the world!”
She was the first to respond on his post: “So, so proud of you!!! I cannot wait for all our flying adventures.”
Miami Herald staff writer Omar Rodriguez Ortiz contributed to this report.