After Fatal Plane Crash, Federal Investigators and One House Survivor Begin Picking Up Some Pieces
FlaglerLive | January 5, 2013
Last Updated: Saturday, 5:11 p.m.
Late Saturday Afternoon Update– The Florida Highway Patrol turned over the investigation of Friday’s plane crash in Semionole Woods to officials from the National Transportation Safety Board, who always conduct crash investigations after the initial work of first responders and police. The NTSB’s investigation can take months to determine the cause of the crash. Sturday’s work was in its most preliminary stages, at the scene of the crash.
“I don’t have a whole lot to fill you in as far as what we’ve seen so far,” Terry Duprie, the NTSB investigator in charge, said during a brief news conference this afternoon in front of the wrecked home on Utica Path. “You can see the scene behind me here, we’re still going through it, we’ve completed some interviews, we’ve done some walkaround, documentation, like I mentioned this morning, we want to capture all the perishable evidence, and that’s what we’re attempting to do now and throughout the day, and will continue to do so. Later this afternoon we’ll be attempting to recover what’s remaining of the plane, to include the engine, the propeller, and the pieces that didn’t get incinerated.”
Duprie was joined by senior investigators Paul Cox and Patrick Murray, along with air safety investigators from Continental Motors and Hawker Beachcraft were at the scene.
“You can see it’s a small area, it was a very high, intense-heat fire,” Duprie continued. “So a lot of the aircraft was destroyed. It makes it difficult to try and, you know, reconstruct this and put everything back together.” Investigators will rely on traffic control information, and calls with the pilot before the crash. In about 10 days, the NTSB will publish its initial report on the crash.
“Hopefully we’ll do everything that we can to come up with some safety recommendations to keep something like this from happening again,” Duprie said.
The wreckage should be removed by later today. It will be stored temporarily at the Flagler County Airport, then to Continental Motors for an “engine tear-down” in Mobile, Alabama, for more thorough reconstructive analysis.
Susan Crockett, the homeowner at 22 Utica Path who was in the house when the plane crashed into it, and escaped the blaze through a window, also spoke with reporters late Saturday afternoon.
“As you can all see,” Crockett said, “that’s amazing, and I got out without a scratch. A little bruise from taking a tumble through the window, but other than that I’m fine, I’m blessed. Truly God was with me, there’s no way anyone else should have got out of there. God had other plans for me, made sure that I got out. Couldn’t stop the plane, but he could stop me, because I was headed to that exact spot where the plane crashed.”
Crockett said she’d been getting ready to leave to run some errands when the plane crashed. “I had to really think about, like, am I in a movie? Because I didn’t know what was going on, I’m on the phone with my daughter and there’s a plane in the middle of my house, and then it just–reaction. Planes, fire, close the door, get out of the room. When I went to go out the back window, there was fire everywhere, so I was like, OK, go back to the door, see if I can go out that way. When I opened the bedroom door, flames came in, and I knew I couldn’t go out that way. I went back to the window and I just said, take my chances with the fire that was outside. I just ran out and jumped out and ran around to the front.”
She was alone in the house at that point, though just a few days earlier one of her daughter, who’d been home for the holidays, had gone back to college early, otherwise she might have been sleeping on the bed that was charred. Another daughter had not come to visit that day. She also has a grandson who visits frequently, standing in front of the television to watch “Dora the Explorer.” The television is now “a glob of metal,” Crockett said. She has three daughters, who were with her today: Jasmine, Jessica and Jocelyn.
Almost the entirety of the house has been demolished. For all the harrowing moments between the plane, the fire and the uncertainty, Crockett said she finally did sleep Friday night, “the time I did sleep,” and did so well. But she doesn’t know how to proceed: her belongings, down to her clothes, have been wiped out. Her “church family” (Mount Calvary Baptist Church) has helped her through to this point, though she could not even move her car out of the driveway. The car survived the fire, but the keys did not: they were in the house, so Crockett can’t drive the car away just yet.
Plane Carrying 3 People Crashes Into Home on Utica Path, Killing All Aboard
January 4–A plane traveling from Fort Pierce, Fla., to Knoxville, Tenn., with three people on board crashed into a house at 22 Utica Path off Seminole Woods Blvd. in Palm Coast shortly after 2 p.m. this afternoon. The homeowner was in the house at the time of the crash, but was uninjured, and was catching her breath minutes after the crash in a neighbor’s garage across the street. But three occupants of the plane are dead.
The Federal Aviation Authority issued the following statement: “A BE35 aircraft enroute to Downtown Island Airport in Knoxville, TN, reported a mechanical problem and was diverting to Flagler County Airport in FL. Plane crashed one mile east of airport into a house. Three persons on board.”
All three were confirmed dead. There had been earlier reports that five or four people had been on board, and by later afternoon there remained some uncertainty about a fourth passenger. But reports of additional passengers proved unfounded.
The plane–registered as N375B–was owned since 2008 by Michael Anders, who was piloting it when it crashed. Anders marked his 58th birthday the very day of the crash. He was a Spanish teacher at Clinton County High School in Albany, Kentucky, where he lived in an airport community, at Spring Creek Airport. He was divorced, and had two daughters. His next-of-kin were informed of the his death overnight.
Anders was traveling with Duane L. Shaw, a 59-year-old friend from Albany, and the friend’s girlfriend, Charisse Peoples, 42. The trio had gone to the Virgin Islands to house-sit a house over the Christmas holidays.
FAA officials arrived at the scene around 7 p.m., with more arriving by 10 p.m. The bodies of the victims were about to be removed after 8 p.m. The removal was not completed until about 11:30 p.m., when John’s Towing, the wrecking service, was called in to lift the planes engine, which had pinned down the legs of one of the plane’s occupants.The Beachcraft Bonanza BE35 is a fixed-wing single-engine general aviation aircraft that seats four people (its engine is a Cont Motor, O-470 series). It has a cruising speed of 131 miles per hour. Its last certification was issued in July 2008.
Reporters were briefly allowed near the cordoned off scene, then moved out again as the smoke had cleared and Florida Highway Patrol investigators, leading the crash investigations, were preparing for the removal of the bodies from the wreckage. But that will not take place until officials from the National Transportation Safety Board, who were due at the scene by early evening, had analyzed and photographed the scene. The FHP is in charge of the initial phase of the crash investigation. The NTSB is in charge of analyzing the causes of the crash.
The house was fully engulfed in flames. The plane struck the house as it was approaching Flagler County Airport from the east. The plane had already radioed its troubles on the approach, citing vibrations and smoke in the cockpit. It also hit bad weather.
Several units of Flagler County Fire Rescue and the Palm Coast Fire Department had been placed on alert, and several had already staged at the entrance to the airport, in the Hijackers parking lot, as the plane was approaching from more than 15 miles away, some 10 minutes before the crash.
The plane radioed its conditions to the flight tower. It crashed less than a mile away from its landing spot, in a wooded subdivision juist east of the runway. It isn’t known right now what type of plane it was.
The homeowner, Suzanne Crockett, was apparently in the house when it crashed, but survived unscathed, and was seen being comforted by neighbors and authorities as she spoke on the phone to reassure family and friends, repeating over and over, “I’m OK, I’m OK.” She was visibly shaken, and shaking, beneath a blanket someone had draped over her. She was taken to the hospital and released.
“My wife was home with the baby, seven weeks old,” said Tim Hornsby, when the plane struck the house next door, “and frightened her off the couch. Called me at work, and I rushed home. She was pretty frantic, pretty distraught, had the baby in her hands, and had to be evacuated from the house.” She went to a friend’s house, distressed, but otherwise fine. Hornsby, who works at a hospital, didn’t know Crockett well, but had once helped her when she dealt with an aggressive dog, and knows her as “a pleasant person” and a “nice neighbor.”
The plane was built in 1957. “The crew reported that their engine wash shaking violently prior to the crash,” an FHP spokesperson said. The last transmission had included mention of smoke.
At 3:05, another emergency call went out from the flight tower about a plane low on fuel, but that plane soon landed safely.
The plane that crashed had reported trouble when it entered Daytona Beach’s air space. The plane had originally been believed to have taken off from Daytona Beach, but in fact had taken off from Fort Pierce. As of 3:30 p.m., three of its occupants were confirmed dead. A fourth, if on board, was still being searched for, according to a Florida Highway Patrol investigator at the scene. “Three is what we know based on what we see at the scene,” the FHP spokesman said.
Only portions of the wing remained, according FHP. “It looks like it was a pretty steep descent and it went right into the roof,” the FHP spokesman, Lt. Justin Asbery, said, “and you don’t see much tree damage right around the house, so that would indicate it was a pretty steep descent.”
Charlie Ericksen, the Flagler County commissioner, was escorted through the crash zone at about 3:30 p.m., after the fire was out, and said he saw “just a destroyed roof area with smoke still coming out of it, scattered debris. All we saw was the tail section sticking out of the roof.”