Family ‘devastated' after flight instructor dies when plane crashes into Winter Haven home

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — We're getting a new look at the damage left behind at a Winter Haven home after a plane crashed into it Saturday.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators started investigating the crash Sunday, which led to these shocking images.

A pilot died, and a teenager was hurt when the plane came through the house.


The accident left the aircraft nearly straight up and down through the house.

“It went straight through the middle of their house,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

Although seeing the crash that ended his father-in-law's life is tough, Luis Munez is heartened by one thought.

“The man got to do what he loved for a living, you know?” Munez said.

James Wagner, 64, was the instructional pilot on this plane, which crashed into the home right after takeoff.

What first responders saw next floored them.

“The trainee pilot actually walked out of the crash, if you can believe that,” Judd said. “Walked out of the crash and was wandering around.”

Munez said their family, especially the son they named after Wagner, is devastated.

“His whole bedroom décor, all his toys are planes because he wants to be just like his grandfather,” Munez said.

Family members said Wagner was an Air Force veteran and was once a pilot for Publix and for Jimmy Buffett.

On Sunday, crews removed the plane from the house.

A gaping hole was left behind where the plane went through the back bedroom, pinning a 17-year-old girl against a wall.

Munez said the family is thankful she and the trainee Wagner was instructing are both OK.

“Knowing Jim, he wouldn't have wanted it any other way,” Munez said.

Sunday will be a particularly tough day for the grieving family because they all typically barbecued and ate together every Sunday evening.

“To him, family was everything, and he set the tone for us as a family, and we're going to miss him. We're going to miss him dearly."

WFTV News reached out to the family of the girl who was rescued from the house after the crash to see how she's doing, but have not heared back.

With the damage from this crash, the family isn't able to stay in the house.

The Red Cross is helping them right now.

Deputies and neighbors who have long worried something like this would happen said it's a miracle someone did survive.

Some neighbors said they've been more worried this could happen with the airport handling more flights and more development planned for the area.

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