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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Teen Crashes Plane Into Tampa Office Block

TAMPA, Florida -- A small plane flown by a lone 15-year-old student crashed into an office high-rise in Tampa on Saturday after taking off from a nearby airport without clearance and then ignoring Coast Guard signals to land, officials said.

The youth, Charles Bishop, was dropped off for a flying lesson by his grandmother at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater airport, about 30 kilometers from Tampa, said Pinellas County Sheriff's spokesman, Sergeant Greg Tita.

Bishop had a practice flight scheduled with his instructor on the single-engine, four-seater Cessna, but took off alone when the instructor walked away after telling him to do a pre-flight check, Tita said.

The airport notified the Coast Guard, which had a patrol helicopter try to signal the plane to land.

Bishop died when the plane crashed into the 28th floor of the Bank of America building, said Tampa Police Department spokesman Joe Durkin.

Tampa Police Chief Bennie Holder told reporters a note found on the body of Bishop expressed sympathy for Osama bin Laden and support for the Sept. 11 passenger plane attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that killed some 3,000 people.

"I would characterize it as a suicide note," Holder told reporters of the three to four-paragraph handwritten note.

Bishop's family described him Monday as someone who cared deeply for the United States and said they were devastated.

"The family of Charles Bishop is appalled and devastated over the incident," Bishop's mother, Julie Bishop, and his grandmother, Karen Johnson, said in a statement.

"We had absolutely no prior indication that this might occur. We are exceedingly grateful that no one else was injured."

Bishop's family's statement said that "Charles and his family have always fully supported our United States war on terrorism and Osama bin Laden."

The family "do not understand why or how this incident happened. We will always remember Charles as a loving and giving person, a hard working and responsible honor-roll student and a boy who cared deeply about his country," the statement said. "We hope that something positive can come out of our tragic loss."

Tampa Police Chief Bennie Holder said Sunday that the note left by Bishop made clear that he was acting alone.

"At this time, there is no information to support Bishop's connection with any terror organization," he said. "All the indications are Charles Bishop was a troubled young man who acted alone without anyone else," Holder said.

Bishop's plane came within 300 meters of a Southwest Airlines jet that was taking off from Tampa International Airport, a Tampa air traffic controller said.

Bishop was a freshman at East Lake High School. Some of the students and teachers who knew him said he had denounced bin Laden and the Sept. 11 attacks.

"He was disgusted by Osama bin Laden," classmate Derek Perryman told the St. Petersburg Times.

Andrea Panarelli, one of Bishop's teachers, told the Times: "He was a bright, good kid."

Newsweek, on its web site, quoted a friend of Bishop's as saying the boy probably referred to bin Laden and Sept. 11 only to cause a stir. "I don't think he supported bin Laden at all. ... I think he wrote that in the note just to get publicity," the magazine quoted Emerson Favreau as saying.

During his brief flight, Bishop also flew through restricted airspace over MacDill Air Force Base on the southern tip of Tampa. The U.S. Central Command, which is in charge of the war in Afghanistan, has its headquarters on the base.

Two F-15 jets from Homestead Air Reserve Base south of Miami, about 400 kilometers away, were sent to intercept the Cessna but did not arrive until after it crashed.