NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Officials have confirmed three bodies were recovered after a small plane heading to Norfolk International Airport crashed on land at the Norfolk Botanical Garden, Wednesday morning.
Virginia State Police confirmed Norfolk International Airport police located the aircraft in the Enchanted Forest section of the garden, off of Azalea Garden Road, around 7:20 a.m.
According to VSP, the plane was located in the Enchanted Forest section of the garden, listed as number 28 on the map. (Photo credit: Norfolk Botanical Garden)
Several agencies, including fire and rescue crews from Norfolk, Virginia Beach, the U.S. Coast Guard and Little Creek began the search for the aircraft after the plane lost communication with the airport sometime around 4:30 a.m. During the search the Coast Guard said fog had become an issue and at one point crews only had about 25 yards of visibility.
Norfolk Fire-Rescue says Norfolk International Airport officials reported the plane was attempting to land on runway 23, and at approximately one and a half miles out, the pilot made a transmission to the tower. This would be the last communication the tower had with the pilot.
Multiple sources familiar with the situation tell 10 On Your Side there were three people on board a Mooney M20 aircraft. According to the sources, the plane departed from Florida and was heading to Virginia. The Flight Aware live flight tracking website reports, the Mooney M20 plane departed from Palatka Municipal Airport in Palatka, FL at 11:57 p.m. Tuesday and was heading to the Suffolk Executive Airport. It was expected to land in Suffolk at 3:23 a.m. Wednesday. However, the plane diverted during the approach into Suffolk due to poor visibility and headed to Norfolk.
Michael Buxton was one of the three victims on board the plane. According to a family member, Michael Buxton and two friends from Buffalo flew to Key West last week. They sailed on Buxton’s 32-foot sailboat called, “Bigger Dream.” The three flew out of Key West Tuesday and the last communication with family was at 11:47 p.m. while flying over Fort Myers Florida.
Buxton was a child psychologist in Virginia Beach whose clients were mostly special education students.
State Police, along with the FAA and NTSB are conducting the crash investigation. Hardinson said, “Once the NTSB and the FAA release the aircraft State Police will have the aircraft removed at that point.”
According to the Norfolk Botanical Garden website, the garden will be closed to the public until further notice. All classes and programs scheduled for Wednesday March 4 have been postponed.