Winter Haven, Florida — Authorities say two people died after a small plane crashed at an airport in Central Florida Sunday morning.
According to WFTV Channel 9 News, the aircraft, an Airborne Windsport experimental ultralight plane, crashed around 11:20am Sunday at the Winter Haven Municipal Airport. Witnesses say the plane was performing touch-and-go maneuvers when it struck the ground, flipped and slid about 168 feet.
Winter Haven police say the pilot of the plane, Suzanne Broadbelt, 60, died at the scene of the Sunday morning crash.
Sixty-one-year-old Gary Lawrence of Inverness was taken to Lakeland Regional Medical Center, where he died a short time later.
“You feel terrible and it doesn’t matter whether you know the pilot of the passenger or whatever. Flying here is fun and people shouldn’t die,” witness Neke Visse told WFTV News.
The Federal Aviation Administration responded to the scene late Sunday and the National Transportation and Safety Board will conduct a full investigation.
According to Winter Haven Police officer Jamie Brown, 30 to 35 mph wind gusts were reported in the area and that could have played a factor in the crash.
“It is sad,” Brown told CFNews13. “It is a beautiful day. We’ve got these wonderful winds that we enjoy here on the ground that can certainly wreak havoc on an aircraft. If they gust away – that’s what they’re thinking possibly happened.”
The Tampa Bay Times reports Sunday’s crash was latest in a spate of accidents in Florida in the past two months involving light or ultralight aircraft.
On September 16, two pilots died in separate crashes of what authorities described as ultralight planes in Pasco and Hernando counties. Then on September 22, a pilot for Edelweiss Air was killed while flying a small plane in the Land O’Lakes area.