The tragedy of a plane's fatal crash in the Florida Everglades quickly became a horror story Thursday when an alligator was spotted uncomfortably close to the pilot's body.
According to WSVN, a small airplane was found along with the body of a pilot after the plane vanished Wednesday night.
When a local news helicopter began circling the crash site Thursday, a staff member made a startling observation.
Our chopper is above the scene of a wrecked plane in the Everglades. A gator appears to be chewing on a body next to the wreckage.— Pete Burke (@PeteBurke) July 6, 2017
"Our chopper is above the scene of a wrecked plane in the Everglades. A gator appears to be chewing on a body next to the wreckage," tweeted Pete Burke with WPLG.
Other reports said the alligator was merely wading near the body.
What's clear is that the pilot should not have been alone in the Cessna 152's cockpit when the owner of Dean International Flight School called Miami-Dade police after 10 p.m. Wednesday.
It is unclear which airport the pilot had taken off from, but the flight school owner, Robert Dean, told reporters that a private search was attempted before authorities were contacted.
"The individual was qualified to fly the aircraft, but he broke every single company policy," Dean told WSVN. "In our minds, we thought that he had already taken off, and he was doing what’s called a solo cross country."
Authorities have not identified the victim, but friends of a man named Mark Ukaere fear he is the pilot and say he has been missing since Saturday.
"Sunday went by. People went looking for the aircraft but could not find it, and then Tuesday was the holiday, the Fourth of July," Dean said.
A day later, officials would initiate their search, and an hour after that the tiny plane would be found smashed to pieces in Florida's vast swamp with the dead pilot — and only occupant —found several feet away.
"It’s horrible," said Dean. "He was a very nice person, was friendly with everybody up here, but, you know, he didn’t follow the rules."