Fugitive Pilot Arrested 24 Years After Fatal Flight
The Canadian pilot of a Cessna 150 that was allegedly intentionally ditched in a Montana lake 24 years ago has been arrested in Texas and faces charges in connection with the death of his girlfriend in the ditching, according to the Vancouver Sun. Jaroslaw "Jerry" Ambrozuk, who had been living in Plano, Texas, under the name Michael Lee Smith, was arrested a week ago and is fighting extradition to Montana where authorities want to charge him in the death of Dianne Babcock, whose body was found in the airplane at the bottom of Little Bitterroot Lake. According to police, the couple, then 19 and 18, planned to fake their deaths in the crash and disappear into the U.S. in a bizarre elopement scheme. The couple rented the plane in the southern British Columbia town of Penticton and said they intended to fly west to Vancouver. Instead, Ambrozuk flew south across the U.S. border into Washington State before heading east. The plan apparently went awry when Babcock couldn't get her seatbelt undone. Ambrozuk was able to make it to shore, but rather than report the accident to authorities he fled, first to Whitefish, Mont., and then New York. He made phone calls to a friend from both places that were recorded and transcribed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and later reported by the Daily Interlake, of Kalispell, Montana. In the calls he expressed remorse about Babcock's death but also wondered about "a person so stupid" she couldn't unfasten her seatbelt. The unidentified recipient of the call urged Ambrozuk to turn himself in, saying the authorities would look for him "forever." "And they'll never find me," Ambrozuk replied. But Ambrozuk, a self-employed software developer with a Dodge Viper in the driveway of his upscale home, had apparently told some of his Texas acquaintances his real identity and one of them tipped authorities. Police posing as lawn-sprinkling-ban enforcement officers arrested him.