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Police: Family of 3 was flying back to St. Petersburg when plane crashed off Venice Beach

A 43-year-old woman and a 12-year-old girl were found dead. A search for the 42-year-old male pilot is still underway.

VENICE, Fla. — Police said a family of three was onboard a small plane that crashed Saturday night off Venice Beach shortly after taking off from the local airport. A 43-year-old woman and a 12-year-old girl were found dead. 

The search for the pilot — a 42-year-old man — is still ongoing, according to Venice police. The identities of the family have not been released at this time. 

The plane, Piper Cherokee, was recovered Monday night, officials say. It was brought to the Higel Marine Park boat ramp in Venice and will then be transported to a secure National Transportation Safety Board facility in Jacksonville for authorities to conduct further investigation. 

In the meantime, Higel Park will be closed to the public until further notice, the City of Venice said in a news release. 

Search efforts to find the 42-year-old man was suspended at 5:51 p.m. Monday but will be continued on Tuesday, the city says.

Few details about the crash investigation could be given, as police said the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is in charge of that. 

Based on information gathered by police, the family had rented a plane in St. Petersburg and flew down to Venice for dinner, with "every intention of returning" to St. Petersburg that night. But they never arrived. 

On Sunday morning, around 10 a.m., police said they received a call that recreational boaters had found a woman's body in the Gulf of Mexico about two miles from shore. Around that time is when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) contacted the agency to inform them a small plane that had taken off from the Venice Municipal Airport Saturday evening had not reached its destination in St. Petersburg. 

From there, multiple agencies came together to begin a search in the Gulf. Around 2 p.m. Sunday, police said divers located the wreckage of a Piper Cherokee about one-third of a mile from the airport in about 15 feet of water. Inside was the 12-year-old girl. 

The pilot is still missing, and police said the search reaches a 5-mile radius. 

Watch the full press conference below or by clicking here:

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the young girl's age as provided Monday night by the Venice Police Department. 

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