Two small planes collide over Florida lake, claiming four lives including student pilot and pilot
A tragic midair collision of two small planes over Lake Hartridge in central Florida has resulted in the loss of four lives, including a pilot and a 19-year-old student pilot. The collision occurred around 2 p.m. on Tuesday, involving a Piper J-3 Cub seaplane and a Cherokee Piper 161 fixed-wing plane.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd provided details on the incident, which shocked local residents such as Caridad Fernandez. Fernandez and others heard a “giant boom” and likened the sound to that of a rocket hitting the atmosphere. The incident highlights the importance of aviation safety measures and the risks inherent in any flight.
“We pretty much saw everything hit the water,” recalled witness Caridad Fernandez.
After the collision, numerous rescue workers arrived at the scene where one plane was partially submerged while the other was submerged under about 21 feet of water. The rescue workers managed to retrieve four bodies from the wreckage, according to Sheriff Grady Judd.
The fixed-wing plane was operated by Sunrise Aviation in Ormond Beach on behalf of Polk State College and was carrying pilot and flight instructor Faith Irene Bake, 24, and student Zachary Jean Mace, 19, both from Winter Haven. The seaplane was operated by Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base in Winter Haven and carried Randall Elbert Crawford, 67, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and another individual whose name has not yet been released, pending notification of next of kin.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will conduct investigations to determine the cause of the collision. Sheriff Judd requested that the public keep the victims’ families in their thoughts during this difficult time, stating: “Please keep the families in your prayers during this difficult and stressful time.”