NTSB issues preliminary report on Winter Haven midair plane collision

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report Tuesday on its investigation into a midair collision between two instructional flights earlier this month.


Both flight instructors and student pilots were killed in the March 7 crash over Lake Hartridge in Winter Haven.

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According to the NTSB’s report, a float-equipped Piper J-3 Cub was preparing for a water landing at 2 p.m. on its way back to Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base on the lake after a local flight.

At the same time, a Piper PA-28 Cherokee light aircraft was performing power-off, 180-degree landing maneuvers towards a runway at Winter Haven Regional Airport.

The NTSB report doesn’t identify a specific cause for the crash, but notes that the J-3 Cub wasn’t equipped with a radio and couldn’t communicate with other aircraft on the frequency for common aircraft traffic advisories.

According to witnesses and radio transmissions, both planes made turns towards each other and collided nearly head-on about 575-feet above the ground.

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The NTSB’s report says flight data and surveillance video footage showed neither plane made any altitude or heading adjustments before the collision.

Both planes fell into Lake Hartridge just east of the runway at Winter Haven Regional Airport. After an extensive search, the bodies of all four people in the planes were recovered from the Lake.

The passengers on board the PA-28 were identified as 24-year-old Faith Baker, a pilot and flight instructor with Sunrise Aviation out of Ormond Beach, and 19-year-old Zachary Mace, a student at Polk State College.

On board the J-3 Cub were 67-year-old Randall Crawford, a flight enthusiast from Carlisle, PA, and 78-year-old Louis Defazio, from Winter Haven.

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According to the NTSB’s report, examination of the wreckage from both planes showed no evidence of possible mechanical malfunctions before the collision.

The crash remains under investigation by the NTSB as well as the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention.

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