The pilot of a small plane carrying North Texas residents to Florida reported they had hit severe turbulence and were upside down before crashing in the Gulf of Mexico in July, killing all five people on board.
The Federal Aviation Administration released audio tapes Wednesday of the pilot's radio transmissions, including his final desperate call: "Mayday, mayday, mayday!"
The twin-engine Cessna crashed July 8 about 25 miles west of Port Richie, Fla., several hours after taking off from the Collin County Regional Airport in McKinney.
In addition to pilot Steve Barrows, 33, the plane carried Roland Schurrer, 40, the founder of a family-owned construction business in Carrollton called Quality Powder Coating, a marketing manager and two customers.
"We're in quite a bit of turbulence," Burrows told an air traffic controller. "Is there any chance you could give us some direction?"
The controller, based in Jacksonville, Fla., responded: "Looks like straight ahead is the best way out."
A short time later, the pilot radioed again, sounding a bit more frantic.
"We're getting a 2,000 foot (per minute) descent here," he said.
The controller asked the pilot if he wanted to turn around and reverse course, and he said, "Yes, sir."
Less than 30 seconds later, the pilot sounded panicked.
"We're in a mayday, mayday, mayday!" he said, his voice clearly in distress. "We're upside down! My God, hurry!"
The controller tried desperately to reach him again but could not.
An unidentified other pilot then radioed, "Center, you better scramble whatever you scramble because I think they hit the ground."
"We're going, sir."
The Coast Guard later reported a two-mile wide field of debris. Most of the wreckage has never been recovered.
While the radio transmissions and radar images from that day leave little doubt the plane entered a severe storm, federal investigators have not yet released an official cause of the crash.