Pilot Jumps From Malibu, Flees Authorities

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Authorities in Alabama are looking for the pilot of a Piper Malibu that crashed in Florida after the pilot apparently made a fake distress call, put the aircraft on autopilot and parachuted out late Sunday. The plane went on to crash near East Milton on the Florida panhandle while the pilot, identified as Marcus Schrenker, 38, an investment broker from Indianapolis, was being taken to a hotel in Harpersville, Ala., by a local police officer. According to the Childersburg Police Department, Schrenker told an officer he'd been in a canoeing accident and he was escorted to the hotel. Some time later, when police there heard about the crash and recognized Schrenker's name, they went back to the hotel but Schrenker was gone. A hotel employee told them he put on a black cap and disappeared into the woods. The unusual string of events began with Schrenker taking off from Anderson Municipal Airport in Indiana Sunday evening.

The plane crashed at about 9:15 p.m. Sometime earlier, about 220 miles to the north near Birmingham, Ala., Schrenker made a distress call, saying the windshield on the aircraft had imploded and he was severely cut. At some point after that he "appears to have intentionally abandoned the plane after putting it on autopilot over the Birmingham, Alabama, area and parachuting to the ground," according to a news release from the Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office in Milton, Fla. The cop who took Schrenker to the hotel in Harpersville said the pilot was wet from the knees down but didn't appear hurt.