15 Jan 2009

Pilot charged after bailing out of plane

1:43 pm on 15 January 2009

Criminal charges have been filed in Florida against a pilot who parachuted out of his airplane before it crashed in an apparent attempt to escape his legal woes by faking his death.

Marcus Schrenker,38, from Indiana is in hospital in north Florida after slashing his wrists. He was charged on Wednesday with making a false distress call and willfully crashing his plane.

The charges were filed in US District Court in Pensacola, Florida. They carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, a $US5,000 fine, plus restitution for the $US36,000 rescue effort.

Schrenker is already wanted Indiana on charges of financial fraud.

He was alone aboard a small plane that took off for Florida on Sunday from Anderson, Indiana. Investigators said that as the plane flew over over Alabama, he made a fake distress call, put the plane on autopilot and parachuted out.

The empty plane crashed in a swampy area near a housing development in the city of Milton.

Schrenker parachuted safely to the ground near the city of Harpersville, Alabama, on Sunday night.

U.S. marshals caught up with him on Tuesday night at a camping ground in north Florida campground after he cut his wrists.