The New York Times reports: A financial adviser from Indiana disappeared into the Alabama woods early Monday after faking a distress call and parachuting from a small plane that crashed in Florida.
The police in three states were looking for the pilot, identified as Marcus Schrenker, 38.
No one was hurt in the crash. According to the police in Santa Rosa County in the Florida Panhandle, where the plane went down, Mr. Schrenker turned up safely about 220 miles north of there. And there is evidence that Mr. Schrenker was an experienced pilot who might have been trying to fake his own death.
His life seemed to be unraveling. Court records show that Mr. Schrenker’s wife filed for divorce on Dec. 30. A Maryland court recently issued a judgment of more than $500,000 against one of three Indiana companies registered in his name — and all three are being investigated for securities fraud by the Indiana Secretary of State’s Office, a spokesman, Jim Gavin, said.
Mr. Schrenker has at least a decade of experience as a pilot, according to the airport in Anderson, Ind., where he departed Sunday evening. But the police said that within hours of taking off, he issued a distress call.
He told air traffic controllers that he was bleeding profusely and that the windshield of his Piper PA-46 turboprop had imploded. The control tower told him to try to land nearby, but instead he “appears to have intentionally abandoned the plane after putting it on autopilot over the Birmingham, Ala., area,” the police in Santa Rosa County said.
He next appeared in Childersburg, Ala., about 30 miles to the southeast, when he approached local officers at a store and said he had been in a canoeing accident. He was wet from the knees down and carried what the police described as “goggles that looked like they were made for ‘flying.’ ”
After checking his Indiana license, the officers drove Mr. Schrenker to a hotel. After learning of the abandoned plane, they returned, but his room was empty.
Witnesses said a man believed to be Mr. Schrenker wearing a black toboggan cap had run into the woods next to the hotel.
He has not been seen since. The telephones at Mr. Schrenker’s home and one of his companies, Heritage Wealth Management, have been disconnected.
His piloting skills, however, can be seen in a YouTube video in which he flies under bridges in the Bahamas. “This stunt,” it says, “should not be tried by any pilot that wishes to stay alive.”