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Chief of Staff Steve Lester briefed the media about an in-air collision involving two small planes that occurred over Lake Hartridge around 2:04 p.m., March 7, 2023, in Winter Haven. Watch the briefing here.
Polk County Sheriff's Office investigators are confirming that the two small airplanes involved in the mid-air crash over Lake Hartridge in Winter Haven have been positively identified:
1. A Piper J-3 Cub sea plane operated by Jack Brown's Seaplane Base in Winter
2. A Cherokee Piper 161 fixed wing plane operated by Sunrise Aviation (Ormond
Beach) on behalf of Polk State College
Investigators have not positively identified those who were on the planes.
Once positive identification has been made and next of kin notification has been made, we will release their identities.
At this point in the search and rescue operation, two deceased bodies have been located.
Polk County Sheriff's Office investigators are confirming that four people have been located who were in the two planes that crashed. All four are deceased. Three of those are:
Faith Irene Rowe, 24, of Winter Haven, a pilot/flight instructor with Sunrise Aviation (Cherokee Piper 161)
Zachary Jean Mace, 19, of Winter Haven, a student at Polk State College (Cherokee Piper 161)
Randall Elbert Crawford, 67, from Carlisle, Pennsylvania (Piper J-3 Cub)
Deputies are working to confirm the identity of a fourth deceased person (Piper J-3 Cub). Once a positive identification has been made, and next of kin notification has been made, we will release the identity.
All four located persons are the only occupants of the planes. It is no longer a search and rescue operation, but a recovery operation.
"My heart goes out to the families and friends of those who were killed in today's crash. The NTSB and FAA will be investigating the cause and circumstances of the collision. Please keep the families in your prayers during this difficult and stressful time." -Grady Judd, Sheriff
The Polk County Sheriff's Office is confirming the identity of the fourth deceased person involved in yesterday's mid-air two plane crash over Lake Hartridge in Winter Haven: Mr. Louis C. Defazio, 78 of Fredricksburg, Texas (and Winter Haven, Florida) is one of two men who were in the Piper J-3 Cub airplane. All four of those in the two planes have been identified and their next of kin have been notified.
At this time, both planes are still in the lake and are expected to be recovered sometime today by a contractor working with the NTSB.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) along with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) through the Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention will be investigating the cause and circumstances of the crash.