Five-Hour Aerial Chase Ends On Unopened Stretch Of Interstate
MIAMI (AP) _ Federal agents chased a twin-engine plane with about 1,000 pounds of cocaine aboard for about five hours Monday, until it ran out of gas and landed on an unopened stretch of Interstate 75, authorities said.
Two suspects fled after landing the plane, and police using divers and dogs to search for them in an uninhabited, canal-laced area of swamps and woods northwest of Miami.
Authorities found 12 suitcases and four duffle bags containing cocaine with an estimated street value of $200 million aboard the Cessna 441 Conquest turboprop, said Billy Yout, special agent of the U.S. Drug Enforcment Administration.
Agents received a tip early Monday that the pilot of a plane flying from Texas had filed a bogus flight plan, Yout said.
″We reacted by getting a plane up and watched the suspect plane fly into Florida air space,″ Yout said.
He said the plane flew into the Orlando area before 4 a.m., ″then detected the surveillance aircraft and tried to evade by changing directions and making touch-and-go landings.″
Customs Service agents who joined the chase in a helicopter watched the Cessna fake several landings at Pompano Beach and Boca Raton before flying south toward Miami, said Customs spokeswoman Kitty Pryor.
The plane landed on the finished highway about 8:30 a.m., more than five hours after the chase began.
″The pilot was out of fuel and he knew that would be the safest place to put down, since it’s a good straight stretch and there’s no traffic,″ Yout said.
The plane, which has a book value of up to nearly $2 million, was seized, Yout said.