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Crash off Pahokee, into Lake Okeechobee

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Five people are dead after a small plane fell from the sky and plunged into Lake Okeechobee in southern Florida on Friday afternoon.

All five bodies were recovered from the fuselage of the airplane, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

"A twin-engine Piper aircraft went down in Lake Okeechobee while on approach to Pahokee Airport at approximately 3:30 p.m. today," the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. "The flight departed from Tampa International Airport. The FAA is investigating. However, the National Transportation Safety Board will be in charge of the investigation and will release updates."

PHOTO: The Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue responded to a plane crash near Pahokee, Fla., on Friday, March 8, 2019. All five people on board were killed.WPBF

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue responded to a plane crash near Pahokee, Fla., on Friday, March 8, 2019. All five people on board were killed.more +

The victims have been identified as Eduardo Mulet, 45, of West Palm Beach; Eric Peterson, 73, of Lighthouse Point; Matthew Fiorello, 26, of Palm Beach Gardens; Heather Bridwell, 43, of Jupiter; and Edwin Mortell III, 54, of Stuart.

All but Mulet, who was piloting the plane, were part of the same law firm in Florida.

The accident happened about 400 yards north of Pahokee Airport, which is located on the southeast shore of the large inland lake and about 200 miles from Tampa International Airport.

An initial report from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office said "one individual was observed swimming away from the airplane, however, has not been located." It turns out that eyewitness report was inaccurate.

 

PHOTO: The Palm Beach County Sheriffs Office and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue responded to a plane crash near Pahokee, Fla., on Friday, March 8, 2019. All five people on board were killed.

"I seen it circling. It went around two times," witness Laura Lester told West Palm Beach ABC affiliate WPBF. "And it went up in that corner and it didn't come back."

The death investigation will be handled by the PBSO Violent Crimes Division, the sheriff's office said -- standard procedure whether a crime is suspected or not.

Friday's accident took place not far from where a plane crashed into a condo buildingin Fort Lauderdale one week earlier. That accident, which was a single-engine Piper aircraft, was about an hour south of Pahokee Airport. The pilot of the aircraft was killed.

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The thinking is the pilot lost an engine, during a go-around. Tragic!

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Second engine didn't have to fly him very far to get to the crash site.

Sorry of the gallows humor, just can't seem to resist.  I once heard a CFI tell me, "engine quits, first thing wind your watch".  I don't think that works for a twin.  RIP.

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it was an Aztec that had 5 people in it. Having owned one I know that airplane has more then enough power on 1 engine to fly and climb out if an engine failed and was shutdown.

I am curious to see what the final determination is.

Brian

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Crashing during a diversion after losing one engine in an Aztec, at altitude, 15 minutes from home base, is extreme pilot error. Weight is not a factor, the plane has nearly a 2000 pound useful load, and with five average people it would be hundreds of pounds below gross weight. 

I have 2000+ hours in PA23's, many giving instruction. It's the most capable, and most forgiving twin for this type of mission. 

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1,200 feet from PHK, Aztec crashes into shallow water with a professional pilot at the controls, in a plane that should fly easily on one engine. Something else must have been amiss. Hope the NTSB gets to the bottom of it.

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On 3/11/2019 at 4:16 PM, orionflt said:

it was an Aztec that had 5 people in it. Having owned one I know that airplane has more then enough power on 1 engine to fly and climb out if an engine failed and was shutdown.

I did my multi in my dad's aztec and I was thinking the same thing

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