Four people were killed when two small planes collided over a Florida lake Tuesday afternoon.
One of the two planes, a Piper Cherokee, was being operated by a local training school for Polk State College and was carrying instructor Faith Irene Baker, 24, and student Zachary Jean Mace, 19.
The other plane, a Piper J-3 Cub seaplane, was also carrying two people. One was Randall Elbert Crawford, 67, of Pennsylvania, but the identity of the second person has not yet been released.
The two planes collided around 2:00 p.m. Tuesday over Lake Hartridge, between Orlando and Tampa. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. The lake is right next to the Winter Haven Regional Airport, but it’s unclear how the accident occurred.
On impact, both crashed into the water: the seaplane remained partially visible on the surface while the other sank 21 feet to the bottom of the lake. The four deceased people were the only occupants of the two planes.
Four people were killed when a seaplane collided with a fixed-wing aircraft over a lake in Florida on Wednesday afternoon. In the photo, the seaplane is partially visible on the surface.
Instructor Faith Irene Baker, 24, (pictured center) was flying in the Piper Cherokee with 19-year-old Polk State College student Zachary Jean Mace.
“Suddenly it was a giant boom,” Caridad Fernández, who lives along the lake, told WESH-TV. “It literally sounded like a rocket takes off and hits the atmosphere.”
Fernandez said she and many of her neighbors about 40 miles southwest of Orlando ran.
“We practically saw everything go down in the water,” he said.
‘It was just a helicopter after a helicopter after the police siren. They all just walked in,” she added.
Rescue teams attended the scene and a diving team was sent to examine the submerged plane. Four bodies were removed from the planes, the sheriff said.
Baker was a pilot and flight instructor with Sunrise Aviation, which provides flight training to students at Florida State College in Jacksonville and Polk State University in Lakeland.
Mace was a student at Polk State College and they were both from Winter Haven.
The Piper J-3 Cub (pictured) carrying Randall Elbert Crawford, 67, of Pennsylvania, remained floating on the surface of the lake.
The two planes collided around 2 pm Tuesday over Lake Hartridge, between Orlando and Tampa, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
“Our Polk State College family is devastated by this tragedy,” said Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti. “We express our deepest condolences to their families, friends and colleagues.”
Crawford of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and one other person were aboard the seaplane.
The second person’s name was not released as next of kin had not been contacted, Judd said. That plane was operated by Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base at Lake Jessie, which sits next to Lake Hartridge.
A nearby church, the Church of the People, released a statement Wednesday morning paying tribute to Baker.
“We are in mourning with all the families involved, but one of the victims of the accident was our own Faith Baker. Faith was a lover of Jesus, an invaluable member of our worship team, and a sweet, sweet young lady,” she would say. “Pray for her husband, Johnathan, and her parents as they go through this difficult time.”
On Tuesday night, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department said it was no longer running a search and rescue operation, but rather a recovery operation.
The sheriff’s department said the National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA will investigate what caused the collision.
Fernández described how the accident had shocked the community.
“There are children on our lake, there are people jet skiing on our lake,” Fernández said. That’s the lake I grew up on. That’s something we’d do tubing and everything else and now it’s kind of scary.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA will investigate what caused the collision.
“Please keep the families in your prayers during this difficult and stressful time,” Judd said.