WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) – The National Transportation Safety Board gave an update on Thursday regarding a deadly plane crash that killed four people over Winter Haven lake Tuesday afternoon.
Search and rescue crews were originally called to Lake Hartridge, immediately east of the Winter Haven Regional Airport, around 2 p.m. Tuesday where authorities said two planes had an “in-air collision.” Following the crash, both planes plummeted into the water.
Investigators said one of the planes, a Cherokee Piper 161 fixed-wing plane operated by Sunrise Aviation (Ormond Beach) on behalf of Polk State College, did one full stop and two go-arounds at the Winter Haven Airport.
The other aircraft, a Piper J-3 Cub seaplane operated by Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base in Winter Haven, was maneuvering over Lake Hartridge for a normal landing approach at nearby Lake Jessie when the two planes collided.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office identified all four people who died in the crash. They include pilot Faith Irene Baker, 24, of Winter Haven, Polk State College student Zachary Jean Mace, 19, and Randall Elbert Crawford, 67, from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and Louis C. DeFazio, 78, from Fredricksburg, Texas (and Winter Haven, Florida).
The NTSB said it recovered the Piper J-3 Cub Wednesday. On Thursday, the Cherokee Piper plane was mostly recovered. Crews are still working to recover the plane’s right wing.
NTSB’s Lynn Spencer said the Cherokee plane was announcing its location and intentions about 30 seconds after announcing a short approach at Winter Haven Airport. It also announced a left-based turn.
Four seconds after that callout, Spencer said an emergency transmission call came in about a crash. There were no transmissions from the Piper J-3 Cub plane.
Investigators said the Piper J-3 Cub tried to dive right before the crash and the Cherokee’s right wing came off during the crash.
Spencer said the Cherokee pilot might not have been aware of the Piper J-3 Cub and if the Cub did not know about announcing, that might have led to the crash.
Spencer said radios are not required in that particular airspace and at those altitudes. She also said neither plane had an avoidance system or radar to signal to other aircraft.
The Piper J-3 Cub did not have a transponder announcement system, Spencer said. She said the NTSB does not know what each plane could see before the crash.
Spencer said the NTSB’s next steps are to finish recovery and to conduct more interviews.
When interviews are done, the wreckage will go to Jacksonville for crash analysis.
Both the FAA and the NTSB are investigating the crash, with the NTSB in charge of the investigation. A preliminary crash report is expected in two to three weeks. In 12-18 months, the NTSB will release a factual crash report and probable cause.