DUNNELLON, Fla. – Greg Graham, the police chief of Ocala, Florida, was killed in a Sunday morning plane crash, deputes with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office confirmed.
Graham was the sole occupant of the aircraft when the crash occurred at around 11:30 a.m. and no additional injuries were reported on the ground.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said Graham’s “service and dedication to his community was never questioned.”
“He loved being the Ocala police chief. He loved Ocala and Ocala loved him back. He will be missed by so many that he has affected, myself included,” Woods told WCJB.
The plane crashed into an open field near the Marion County Airport, a county-owned facility in an unincorporated area near Dunnellon, USA Today reported, noting Graham had recently earned his pilot’s license.
“An incredibly tragic day for Ocala. Please pray and send comforting thoughts to the entire Graham family,” City Council member Matt Wardell posted on Facebook.
Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn learned of Graham’s death from Deputy Chief Mike Balken, who was named the city’s interim police chief.
“It’s hard to believe,” Guinn said, adding that Graham enjoyed sky diving and scuba diving in addition to his fascination with flying, USA Today reported.
“His leadership was responsible for changing the direction of the department. I couldn’t have asked for anybody better,” Guinn added.
The police department posted a Facebook tribute for Graham: “We have had the great privilege to have called him a friend, a boss, and a part of our family for well over thirty years,” the department’s post stated. “He was the heart of the Department. His heart beat for Ocala, for his community, for his department, and especially for his family. … We will miss his passion for community and law enforcement; his candor and personality; his strong leadership; and most definitely his smile.”
The cause of the plane crash is being investigated by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Federal Aviation Administration, WCJB reported.