Pilot Tried To Fake Death in Meridian Crash

 - January 13, 2009, 10:48 AM

Marcus Schrenker, a 38-year-old financial manager under investigation by the SEC, apparently attempted to fake his own death on Sunday by parachuting from his Piper Meridian before the turboprop single crashed at about 9:15 p.m. in a swampy area near Milton, Fla., according to an FAA preliminary report. The pilot, who was flying from Indiana to Destin, Fla., “appears to have intentionally abandoned the airplane after putting it on autopilot over the Birmingham, Ala. area and parachuting to the ground,” the Santa Rosa, [Florida] county's office said in a statement. According to several reports, Schrenker issued a mayday call saying his windshield had shattered and that he was bleeding severely. However, military aircraft that intercepted the airborne Meridian found that the windshield was intact, the door open and the cockpit empty. Additionally, accident investigators found no blood in the airplane’s cockpit, much less a body. After parachuting to safety, Schrenker checked into a Harpersville, Ala. motel under a false name and paid cash for his room. Shortly thereafter, motel video surveillance caught him putting on a black cap before running into nearby woods. Officials believe he fled Harpersville on a motorcycle that he hid in a storage unit he recently leased under another false name. Federal officials have issued warrants for his arrest.