GCSO: Pilot found dead in plane wreckage south of Payson

PHOENIX - Wreckage found south of Payson Wednesday morning is that of a plane that went missing northeast of Phoenix on Tuesday night, the Gila County Sheriff's Office has confirmed.

Lt. Tim Scott said the pilot's body was also located in the wreckage. He has tentatively been identified as David Kappes pending a DNA test. No other passengers were on board at the time of the crash.

A Department of Public Safety helicopter located the Piper Navajo twin-engine aircraft in the Mazatzal Wilderness area around 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Authorities had been searching for the plane since 6:30 p.m. Tuesday when the aircraft disappeared from radar.

Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said air traffic controllers lost radar and radio contact with the pilot about 50 miles northeast of Phoenix.

Gregor said the pilot decided to divert to Phoenix due to weather conditions around Payson.

Controllers alerted authorities they had lost contact with the plane Tuesday evening.

Crews launched an exhaustive search Wednesday, and were hampered by the wintry conditions brought on after Tuesday night's storm.

Paperwork located at the scene reportedly helped confirm the registration number.

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