Family identified as search continues for pilot of plane that crashed off of Venice

VENICE – The three victims in a small plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico off of the Venice Municipal Airport Saturday were identified Tuesday as pilot Christian Kath, 42, his wife Misty Kath, 43, and their daughter Lily, 12.

The family members were St. Petersburg residents but had previously lived in Australia.

Christian Kath was piloting a 1976 Piper Cherokee airplane that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico Saturday night shortly after takeoff from the Venice Municipal Airport.

The plane was recovered by divers Monday afternoon and brought ashore at the Higel Marine Park boat ramp.

The Kaths had rented the airplane at Albert Whitted Airport in St. Petersburg and flew to Venice for dinner, Venice Police reported.

The bodies of Misty Kath and Lily Kath were both recovered Sunday.

Christian Kath has not yet been located.

Venice spokeswoman Lorraine Anderson said via email Tuesday that after consultation with the U.S. Coast Guard, the search area for the missing pilot in the Gulf has been expanded area-wise, but assets have been scaled back.

Boaters from Sarasota Bay south to Gasparilla Island are requested to be aware of the possibility of a body or small aircraft debris floating in the area.

Boaters who observe anything should immediately contact the Coast Guard using marine radio on channel 16.

Divers will be present in the crash area Tuesday.

Venice Police officials continue to be in communication with family members of the Kaths.

Divers worked Monday to attach cables to a 1976 Piper Cherokee that crashed Saturday night into the Gulf of Mexico Saturday night. The plane sank in 15 feet of water about one-third of a mile off of the Venice Municipal Airport. The craft had to be brought to the surface so Sea Tow Venice could bring it to the shore via the boat ramp in Higel Park.
Divers worked Monday to attach cables to a 1976 Piper Cherokee that crashed Saturday night into the Gulf of Mexico Saturday night. The plane sank in 15 feet of water about one-third of a mile off of the Venice Municipal Airport. The craft had to be brought to the surface so Sea Tow Venice could bring it to the shore via the boat ramp in Higel Park.

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The Federal Aviation Administration listed the crash Monday afternoon on its aviation safety web page as a fatal accident, with all three occupants listed as deceased.

Though the Venice Police department was the lead local agency, the National Transportation Safety Board will conduct the overall investigation into the crash.

A NTSB spokeswoman said via email that the recovered aircraft will be taken to a secure facility in Jacksonville for examination.

The process will review all available aspects of the crash, NTSB spokeswoman Jennifer Gabris noted.

“Part of the investigation will be to request radar data, weather information, maintenance records and the pilot’s medical records,” Gabris wrote. “NTSB investigators will look at the human, machine and environment as the outline of the investigation."

A preliminary report is typically published 15 days after the accident.

Venice Police Chief Charlie Thorpe, flanked by Venice Fire Chief Frank Giddens, left, and Venice Assistant City Manager James Clinch, addressed the media at a Monday morning press conference to discuss details of a Saturday night plane crash. A family of three rented the plane in St. Petersburg and reportedly flew to Venice for dinner. The victims were identified Tuesday as pilot Christian Kath, 42, his wife Misty Kath, 43, and their daughter Lily, 12.
Venice Police Chief Charlie Thorpe, flanked by Venice Fire Chief Frank Giddens, left, and Venice Assistant City Manager James Clinch, addressed the media at a Monday morning press conference to discuss details of a Saturday night plane crash. A family of three rented the plane in St. Petersburg and reportedly flew to Venice for dinner. The victims were identified Tuesday as pilot Christian Kath, 42, his wife Misty Kath, 43, and their daughter Lily, 12.

“At this early stage of an investigation, NTSB does not state a cause but will provide factual information when available,” Gabris wrote. “Investigations involving fatalities, and other major investigations currently take between 12 and 24 months to complete."

The 1976 P28A Piper Cherokee, with a tail number of N4676F, is owned by St. Pete Aviation Services, LLC.

Representatives of the company, which offers flight instruction, aircraft rental, maintenance, avionics and aircraft sales under the name St. Pete Air, did not return a phone call requesting comment.

Venice Airport popular with recreational pilots

Venice Municipal Airport, which carries the designation VNC for flight tracking purposes, is an uncontrolled airport that is popular with recreational pilots and flight students.

The fatality was the first one logged at the airport in more than 14 years. That crash, which happened the night of March 24, 2008, also involved a single-engine aircraft that crashed into the Gulf of Mexico. It claimed the life of Venice insurance agent Harry K. Lawrence, who crashed near the Venice Municipal Fishing Pier shortly after takeoff.

From 2008: Pilot error, weather could be behind plane crash

Lawrence was flying a four-seat Piper Warrior, which is in the same family of aircraft as the Piper Cherokee that crashed Saturday evening.

Venice Municipal Airport Administrator Mark Cervasio, left, addresses the media at a Monday morning press conference to discuss details of a Saturday night plane crash. At right is Venice Police Capt. Eric Hill, who is the commander of the department’s criminal investigations division.
Venice Municipal Airport Administrator Mark Cervasio, left, addresses the media at a Monday morning press conference to discuss details of a Saturday night plane crash. At right is Venice Police Capt. Eric Hill, who is the commander of the department’s criminal investigations division.

“Anytime you lose one of your own, it hurts,” Venice Airport Director Mark Cervaio said at a Monday morning press conference. “I’ve been here six-and-a-half years and we haven’t had a fatality since I’ve been here.”

In 2008, Lawrence reportedly took off on runway 2-3 – directly over the Gulf of Mexico – but local pilots said that until the NTSB examines flight data, it’s impossible to know which runway the family chose to use.

“It could have taken off from any of the four available runways and turned out over the Gulf,” said Paul Hollowell, a member of the Venice Aviation Society. Hollowell owns a Cessna 182 but has also flown in the Pipe Cherokee and said all single-engine airplanes handle in a similar fashion.

The four runways are actually separate directional designation for the two airstrips. The number systems apply to the compass headings.

Sea Tow Venice towed a 1976 Piper Cherokee that crashed Saturday night into the Gulf of Mexico to Higel Park Marina Monday evening. A family of three rented the plane in St. Petersburg and reportedly flew to Venice for dinner. The victims were identified Tuesday as pilot Christian Kath, 42, his wife Misty Kath, 43, and their daughter Lily, 12.
Sea Tow Venice towed a 1976 Piper Cherokee that crashed Saturday night into the Gulf of Mexico to Higel Park Marina Monday evening. A family of three rented the plane in St. Petersburg and reportedly flew to Venice for dinner. The victims were identified Tuesday as pilot Christian Kath, 42, his wife Misty Kath, 43, and their daughter Lily, 12.

So far, no witnesses to the crash have come forward, though Venice Police Chief Charlie Thorpe noted at a Monday morning press conference that one person sent the city a direct message in response to a social media post indicating they saw a plane at about the time of the crash, then looked away.

That person heard a noise, but at that time did not connect the noise to a possible crash.

A flight for dinner in Venice

According to records available through https://www.fllightaware.com, the family departed Albert Whitted – SPG for airport identification purposes – at 4:42 p.m. Saturday and landed in Venice at 5:16 p.m.

Sea Tow Venice towed a 1976 Piper Cherokee that crashed Saturday night into the Gulf of Mexico to Higel Park Marina Monday evening. A family of three rented the plane in St. Petersburg and reportedly flew to Venice for dinner. The victims were identified Tuesday as pilot Christian Kath, 42, his wife Misty Kath, 43, and their daughter Lily, 12.
Sea Tow Venice towed a 1976 Piper Cherokee that crashed Saturday night into the Gulf of Mexico to Higel Park Marina Monday evening. A family of three rented the plane in St. Petersburg and reportedly flew to Venice for dinner. The victims were identified Tuesday as pilot Christian Kath, 42, his wife Misty Kath, 43, and their daughter Lily, 12.

Flightaware has that same plane taking off from Venice at 7:37 p.m., with the arrival listed at 7:37 p.m, accompanied by a question mark in parenthesis.

Recreational divers recovered the body Misty Kath about 2 ½-miles offshore at about 10 a.m. Sunday, Thorpe said.

At roughly that same time the Federal Aviation Administration called to ask Venice Police to search for the missing airplane.

It was spotted from the air at about 2 p.m. by observers in the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office helicopter about one-third of a mile offshore from the Venice Municipal Airport, south of the fishing pier.

Sea Tow Venice towed a 1976 Piper Cherokee that crashed Saturday night through the Venice Jetties Monday evening. A family of three rented the plane in St. Petersburg and reportedly flew to Venice for dinner. The victims were identified Tuesday as pilot Christian Kath, 42, his wife Misty Kath, 43, and their daughter Lily, 12.
Sea Tow Venice towed a 1976 Piper Cherokee that crashed Saturday night through the Venice Jetties Monday evening. A family of three rented the plane in St. Petersburg and reportedly flew to Venice for dinner. The victims were identified Tuesday as pilot Christian Kath, 42, his wife Misty Kath, 43, and their daughter Lily, 12.

The body of Lily Kath was recovered from the wreck, which was in water that was about 15 feet deep.

The multi-agency search included the Sheriff’s Office, Venice Police, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Sarasota Police Department and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Thorpe noted that both special camera gear and sonar were used in the search.

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Earle Kimel primarily covers south Sarasota County for the Herald-Tribune and can be reached at earle.kimel@heraldtribune.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription to the Herald-Tribune.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Plane crash off Venice, Florida killed mom, daughter; father missing