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Pilot Remains And Aircraft Located After Disappearing Over Six Months Ago

October 24, 2014 - Theodore T. “Teddy” Weiss of Zephyrhills, Florida had departed from Marion County Airport in Dunnellon on April 5th in his single-engine, two seater, Sonex experimental aircraft (N229P) for Zephyrhills Municipal airport but never made it. 

On April 7th, Weiss and his aircraft were reported missing and overdue. At the time of his departure, about 2 PM, weather conditions were reported to be good. Witnesses at the airport reported Weiss had departed runway 28, everything appeared to be normal and the aircraft had flown in a southerly direction. 

Authorities searched over 250 square miles of forest, using all-terrain vehicles, helicopters, hikers and horseback with no luck in locating the 74 year old pilot and his homebuilt aircraft. No signal was received from his aircraft's emergency locator beacon (ELT). 


More than six months after the disappearance of the Sonex aircraft, a hiker stumble upon the aircraft about five miles from Marion County Airport. On Sunday, Daryl Burns was hiking in dense forest when he spotted the wreckage and remains of Weiss. 

Burns said “At first, I thought it was squatters who had set up camp. But as I got closer I could tell it was an upside-down plane.” Weiss was still strapped in his seat. Burns further stated “It was spooky to be walking through the woods like that, and almost dark, and walk up on a wrecked aircraft with a skeleton inside. That's not something you see every day.” 

The aircraft had crashed and come to rest upside down with the engine detached from the aircraft. The aircraft was largely intact and Weiss' Skeletal remains were found in the cockpit. Marion County Sheriff's Office spokeswomen, Lauren Lettelier said "Our helicopter had trouble finding it -- even knowing where it was." The aircraft wreckage site was about 300 yards from the State Road 484 under a heavy canopy of oak trees. 

Joan Backer, Weiss' companion for 13 years, said she had held out hope for the 74 year old private pilot and was hoping he was still alive. She said “I was always hoping that God was holding him in the palm of his hand and he was still alive.”


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