4 killed in midair collision in Florida

Posted at 2:19 PM, Jul 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-18 14:19:49-04

Four people were killed Tuesday in a midair collision during a possible training flight in the Florida Everglades, authorities said.

Several 911 callers reported seeing an explosion in the air just after 1 p.m., Miami-Dade police said. Two victims were found at the wreckage of one aircraft. The third body was recovered from the wreckage of the second aircraft, CNN affiliate WSVNreported.

The search was suspended at dark Tuesday, and the fourth victim was found roughly an hour after the search resumed Wednesday morning, Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta said.

The fourth victim was identified as Carlos Alfredo Zanetti Scarpati, 22, “a fairly new student” at a flight school based out of Miami Executive Airport, the detective said. He was in the plane with pilot Jorge Sanchez, 22, at the time of the crash.

The second aircraft involved — which is from the same flight school — was carrying pilot and inspector Ralph Knight and Nisha Sejwal, 19, Zabaleta said.

Agents with the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are on the scene, but it is too soon to determine the cause of the collision or who was piloting the planes, he said. Scarpati was the only victim who was not a licensed pilot, he said.

The planes were possibly doing a training exercise and authorities believe there may have been a pilot and a student in each aircraft, Zabaleta said.

The crash happened 9 miles west of the Miami Executive Airport, the FAA said.

The FAA identified the planes as a Piper PA-34 and a Cessna 172 aircraft.

Past crashes of planes from school

The aircraft belonged to Dean International, a large flight school run out of Miami Executive Airport, National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Keith Holloway said.

A search of the Federal Administration Accident/Incident Data System reveals 26 records pertaining to Dean International over the past 11 years, according to FAA spokesperson Paul Takemoto. There were two fatalities associated with these incidents, the FAA records say.

In those two crashes, each pilot was flying alone.

Another deadly crash in 2012 was determined to be the fault of pilots who rented a plane from Dean International.

Dean International incurred eight enforcement actions over the 11-year time frame, resulting in three administrative actions and one fine of $15,000, FAA records show. It is unclear how those numbers compare to flight schools of similar size.

CNN reached out to the Dean International flight school numerous times for comment, both Tuesday and Wednesday.

According to the company’s website, Dean operates 42 planes. It is one of the largest flight schools of its kind in North America, according to a NTSB incident report filed four years ago.