WESLEY CHAPEL - H. Cameran MacManus, of Pikeville, Tennessee, was killed when his Piper PA28 went down in the Cypress Creek Wellfield just four miles from the Tampa North Flight Center where he took off Sunday Morning.
The burning wreckage wasn't discovered until Monday afternoon, where the surrounding brush continued to smolder more than a day after the impact.
MacManus, 59, was reported missing by a family member when he didn't reach his expected destination of Pikeville, where he lived. MacManus was the brother of USF Political Science professor Susan MacManus, a well-known political analyst for ABC Action News and other media.
Keith Carver, owner of Tampa North Flight Center, where MacManus took off, jumped in his own plane and went searching after he heard the plane was missing.
Carver said he was flying less than 200 feet off the ground at a slow speed when he spotted black smoke.
"The wind was blowing a little bit and above the trees a little to the north," Carver said. "You could see smoke going across the top of the trees."
Soon after, he spotted a large scorched area of land with scattered debris from the destroyed aircraft. "You couldn't tell it was a plane," Carver said.
Carver said there was dangerous weather Sunday morning. Most of the planes at his airport were grounded because of thick fog and low clouds.
"Pilots like myself don't go flying in that type of weather," he said. "We have a flight school here and the weather was so bad that we didn't allow any of our scheduled students to go up flying at all."
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating the cause of the crash, including the possibility of bad weather.
The Pasco County Sheriff's Office said it got several reports of a loud noise and a possible plane crash, but deputies were unable to find any sign of a crash until it was spotted from the air on Monday.
Edna Poche, a former flight attendant who lives near the Conner Preserve, said she knew something happened when her horses started panicking.
"It was a loud thud," Poche said. "It just woke me because it was so intense," she said.
Sheriff's investigators said a cell phone signal helped give a general location of the crash, which was four miles from the Tampa North airport.
Carver said if weather played a role in the crash, it's another example of how important using abundant caution can be.
"One thing you need to know about aviation: you never have to fly," Carver said. If the weather's bad, just stay on the ground and live a long time."