WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) — Friends, colleagues, faith leaders and school counselors say the four people who died in a mid-air collision over Lake Hartridge in Winter Haven Tuesday afternoon all had a passion for one thing—flying.
“A pilot instructor at 24 years of age, such an incredible young lady. We loved Faith. Our team thought of her as one of our kids,” said David Burton, music pastor at People’s Church in Winter Haven.
Faith Baker, 24, attended church at People’s Church and sang on the worship team.
“We used to joke around that when I became a world class drummer, she was gonna fly me all across the world. She really loved to fly. It was definitely her biggest passion,” said friend and fellow worship team member Tristen Rose.
Rose said Baker, who was recently married, dreamed of being a commercial pilot.
“Like any tragedy, it’s hard to kind of process,” he said.
Baker, a pilot and flight instructor with Sunrise Aviation, was in a Cherokee Piper 161 Tuesday afternoon with Zach Mace, 19.
They were practicing maneuvers in and around Winter Haven Regional Airport.
Mace was a Polk State College student and recent graduate from Summerlin Academy in Bartow.
“Zach was very motivated and very goal-oriented. He knew the whole time he was here what his plan was and that was to be a pilot and he had already started working on getting his hours in and getting his license,” said school counselor Deborah Brister.
Mace was salutatorian in his class and on the lacrosse team.
“He just went over and beyond what a normal high school student would do and not just in his academics and things like that but also in the way that he treated people, the way he conducted himself. He was very mature, very wise beyond his years and always respectful,” said Brister.
“Our Polk State College family is devastated by this tragedy,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said. “We extend our deepest condolences to their families, friends, and colleagues.”
Their plane collided with a Piper J-3 Cub, owned by Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base.
“It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the loss of instructor and dear friend, Lou DeFazio, and fellow seaplane enthusiast and long time customer of the Base, Randall Crawford, in yesterday’s accident,” wrote Ben Shipps, president of Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base in a statement.
DeFazio, 78, of Fredricksburg, TX and Winter Haven, Fla., and Crawford, 67, from Carlisle, PA, were maneuvering to land on Lake Jessie when they hit the other plane and plunged into the lake.
“Our hope and prayer is that all affected by this tragedy feel God’s peace as we love each other through this difficult time,” wrote Shipps in a statement.