At 1853 eastern time, a Piper PA-24-250 crashed while maneuvering near Florence. The pilot and two passengers were killed. The instructor-certificated pilot, an instructor passenger and a third passenger were flying from Ormond Beach, Fla., to Bennettsville, S.C., at 5,300 feet when the pilot contacted Florence controllers and asked if there was any VFR weather to the north. The pilot then elected to proceed to Fayetteville, N.C. The controller instructed the pilot to descend to 5,000 feet and join victor airway 56, but shortly afterward the airplanes Mode C altitude indicated 800 feet and the controller advised the pilot to climb. The pilot replied by requesting a diversion to Florence Regional Airport and the controller provided radar vectors. Radar contact was lost three minutes later. The wreckage was found less than six miles north of the airport. Automated weather at the time reported visibility 4 miles with light rain, broken clouds at 600 feet agl, overcast clouds at 1500 feet, with remarks that the ceiling was variable between 300 feet to 800 feet agl.