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Body found in Miami likely passenger who fell from small plane: police

By Noreen O'Donnell

(Reuters) - A body found in Miami on Saturday is likely that of a passenger who plunged from a small private airplane as it flew off the city's coast two days ago, police said.

The body was discovered at about 10:30 a.m. on the ocean side of a mangrove area by the Miami-Dade Police Department's marine units, Detective Alvaro Zabaleta said in a statement.

Gerardo Nales, a 42-year-old resident of Key Biscayne, Florida, had been missing since he either jumped or fell into Biscayne Bay during a flight on Thursday afternoon, according to the plane's pilot.

"Even though we presume that the body found is that of Gerardo Nales, investigators are pending 'official identification' from the Medical Examiner's Office," the police statement said.

An employee at the medical examiner's office declined comment.

Nales was the plane's sole passenger and police have said they do not know if his fall was deliberate or accidental. Investigators also have not revealed the reason for the flight.

"It's still open and ongoing," Detective Javier Baez told Reuters, when asked if possible foul play had been ruled out by police investigators.

The pilot of the Piper PA-46 aircraft has not been publicly identified.

In a recording of his "mayday" call to air traffic controllers, the pilot can be heard blaming the incident on his passenger.

"You said you've got a passenger that fell out of your plane?" an air traffic controller asked.

"That's correct, sir," the pilot responded. "He opened the back door and he just fell out the plane."

(Reporting by Noreen O'Donnell in New York; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Eric Beech)

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