When the pilots of the two Air Force F-15s finally caught up with the small Cessna jet, they saw a terrible sight.
Juan Carlos Gonzalez Mejia, the experienced pilot of the Citation, was "unconscious and slumped over the controls."
The account of the military pilots is part of the newly released preliminary accident report by the National Transportation Safety Board and helps explain why the Cessna veered from its flight path May 24 and crashed into the Atlantic Ocean about 300 miles east of Fort Lauderdale.
Gonzalez Mejia was hired to fly the owner's newly purchased aircraft from St. Louis Regional Airport in Alton Illinois to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport to have some avionics work done.
According to the preliminary report, the flight was uneventful until air traffic controllers in Atlanta lost communication with Gonzalez Mejia. That's when the Air Force "dispatched two aircraft to intercept the accident airplane," the report said.
The two F-15s followed the Cessna until it dropped into the ocean.
The Coast Guard conducted a search that lasted about two days but neither Gonzalez Mejia, a pilot who had more than 9,000 hours of flight experience, nor the aircraft has been recovered.
As part of the NTSB's ongoing probe, Gonzalez Mejia's medical history will be investigated to determine if illness played any role in the crash, an agency spokesman said Thursday.
It could take up to 18 months for the NTSB to publish its final accident report.
This article is written by Laurel Weibezahn from Sun Sentinel and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.