Airport worker who fueled Tampa surgeon’s plane before deadly crash had just been hired

8 On Your Side

NTSB still investigating

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A well-known Tampa Bay area plastic surgeon was killed after the wrong fuel was put in his plane on Oct. 5, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. 8 On Your Side Investigative Reporter Mahsa Saeidi has now learned the airport employee who fueled the plane had been on the job just six weeks.

Dr. Daniel Greenwald was flying a Piper Aerostar 602P in central Indiana when he crashed in a field last month. The 59-year-old died from blunt-force trauma in the crash, according to an Indiana coroner.

NTSB officials say jet fuel was put into the plane Greenwald was flying instead of the regular aviation gasoline that should have been used. 8 On Your Side spoke with aviation expert, Captain John Cox, who tells us jet fuel would have caused the engine to quit.

8 On Your Side Investigates has received new information about this case from Beth Copeland, the attorney for the City of Kokomo in Indiana.

According to Copeland, the fueling technician was hired by the city on Aug. 26, 2019. The college student was paid $11 an hour. His previous experience included jobs at the YMCA and Burger King but nothing in the aviation field.

Investigators say the plane crash happened shortly after Greenwald left the Kokomo Municipal Airport.

According to the NTSB report, the airport employee who fueled the plane says he asked Greenwald twice if he wanted jet fuel. That employee claims Greenwald said “yes” both times. However, Greenwald was an experienced general aviation pilot with hundreds of hours of flight time experience. Friends say Greenwald would have known the effect the jet fuel would have had on the plane’s engine.

The NTSB has not issued its final report but this case raises questions about the training of workers at smaller airports across the country.

Right now, it’s unclear if the new technician was being supervised when he reportedly pumped jet fuel into Dr. Greenwald’s plane.

“It is a place that a lot of people in aviation start, myself included,” said Captain Cox. “This type of error has happened before and unfortunately, I don’t think this is the last time we’ll see it.”

According to an Advisory Circular obtained by 8 On Your Side Investigates, the FAA can require specific training at big airports like Tampa International but they can only make recommendations at smaller airports.

“The responsibility lies with the operator to provide adequate training,” said Captain Cox.

Copeland sent 8 On Your Side Investigates the job description for the technician’s position. In addition to fueling, he was responsible for maintaining fuel trucks and servicing airplanes.

8 On Your Side has asked the City of Kokomo to provide details about the technician’s training. We are waiting to hear back.

In the meantime, NTSB investigators say the technician reported difficulty in refueling the doctor’s plane because the nozzle didn’t fit.

“Should be a red flag?” asked investigative reporter Mahsa Saeidi.

“It should certainly have caused him to ask questions,” said Captain Cox.

The NTSB is still investigating. 8 On Your Side Investigates will continue to follow this story.

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