Flight instructor, passenger dead following North Perry crash; third victim remains critical

Two people have died following the plane crash at North Perry Airport on Friday afternoon, officials said Saturday.

A flight instructor died at the scene of the crash, while a female passenger who was sitting next to him died shortly after in the hospital, according to Aaron McCarter, an air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board. A third victim, a male passenger in the back seat, remains hospitalized critical condition.

The Cessna 172 single-engine plane had taken off from the airport around noon, reaching an altitude of 100 feet, before it nosedived into the ground.

“It all happened very fast,” McCarter said.

The plane began the takeoff roll from runway 10, then went into a “very high angle of attack,” McCarter told reporters in the shade of a tree at Maxwell Park, which sits across the fence from the site of the crash, at a media briefing Saturday afternoon. The plane “crested” the angle of attack at the top before going into a nose-down attitude, turning left, and hitting the ground in between two runways. It was destroyed on impact, but there was no fire.

Officials on scene of a small plane that crashed at North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines on Friday, August 4, 2023. One person was killed two others were rushed to the hospital with injuries. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Officials on scene of a small plane that crashed at North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines on Friday, August 4, 2023. One person was killed and two others were rushed to the hospital with injuries. A second victim has since died. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)

The two passengers were transported to Memorial Regional Hospital as trauma alerts, said Pembroke Pines Fire Rescue Division Chief Scott Gunn. Both required extrication. Gunn did not identify the occupants.

The three victims were embarking on a “discovery flight,” McCarter said, where an instructor takes paying passengers on a flight to spark their interest in becoming a pilot.

It does not appear so far that an engine failure contributed to the crash.

“All indications are the engine was at full power during impact,” McCarter said.

Excessive heat may have played a role, he added. It was about 95 degrees with 80 percent humidity at the time, creating a “high density altitude” which can be detrimental to the plane’s performance, combined with the weight on board: three people, plus 25 gallons of fuel.

Wind had also begun to pick up at the airport at the time, McCarter said, though it was not storming.

It remained unclear who was flying the plane, though McCarter said the instructor should have been flying because takeoff is a “critical phase” of flight.

Investigators will also look at the front seat passenger and what her role was, he said.

The NTSB arrived at the scene Saturday morning to investigate the cause of the crash, and is now in the process of relocating the plane for more thorough examination. People with Textron Aviation, the manufacturer of the plane, were also on scene Saturday. Representatives for Lycoming, the engine manufacturer, will arrive Sunday.

The plane’s N-number is registered to the company Aeroflyin Corp. The plane had a logo for Icaro Learn 2 Fly flight school, WSVN-Ch 7 reported, which operates at the airport.

According to FlightAware, the plane had taken off from Orlando Executive Airport on Tuesday and arrived at North Perry a little before 6:30 p.m. Most of its previous flights took off and landed at North Perry.

Alyssa Hernandez, 44, was driving down 72nd Avenue when she saw the police cars and ambulances. Behind the fence, feet away from the playground at Maxwell Park, she saw the little plane in the grass.

All she could think, she said, was “Oh my God, this happened again.”

Hernandez has lived directly south of the airport for 16 years. Friday’s crash happened about 50 feet from where another plane plummeted into a car on 72nd Avenue in 2020, killing her friend’s 4-year-old son, Taylor Bishop. Another plane crashed into a house a block away from her last year.

Residents have long complained about the frequent crashes. Friday’s crash is the third out of North Perry in three months.

Asked whether NTSB was concerned about the number of fatal accidents at North Perry, he said that the agency is “always concerned about the number of accidents that happen” but declined to speak on the issue further, adding that crashes tend to pick up in the summer months.

“If we find a problem with the number of accidents at a particular airport, we’ll deal with that later from a data analysis standpoint,” McCarter said. “Right now, we are only looking at this airplane and this particular accident.”

The planes take off over Hernandez’ house, she said. When she sits at her pool, she can see them wobble as they gain altitude.

“I have anxiety,” she said. “I’m always looking now. When I take that street, I’m always looking above me, because you never know now.”

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