CAPE MAY — The pilot of small plane that plunged into the Atlantic Ocean near the Cape May Lighthouse has been identified as a Howell man who loved aviation and who had taken his first solo flight earlier this year.

State Police said Friday that the body of Lawrence Klimek, 58, had not yet been recovered since his Mooney M20J went down 1,200 feet from the lighthouse this week.  A private salvaging firm is working to recover the plane.

The plane left the Trenton-Robbinsville Airport 8 a.m. Wednesday and crashed about 11:20 a.m. according to the FAA, which said there was only one person on board.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

Video by those who spotted the plane before the crash shows that it flew low to the water  before crashing into the ocean, according to the Coast Guard, which said lifeguards swam toward the plane in an effort to free whoever was on board before it become submerged in 18 feet of water.

Search for a plane that went down off Cape May (USCG)

Klimek was an avid flier and his Facebook page was filled with pictures of the Mooney he frequently rented. According to a post on his Facebook page, his first solo flight as a pilot was on January 26. He also went skydiving for the first time in April.

According to his Linkedin page he was the president of an oil tank removal company called Environmental Services, a first responder and a certified FAA aircraft mechanic.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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