FLORIDA- Around 10 individuals were enjoying a day of golf and socializing inside a woman’s mobile home in Florida just moments before a small plane crashed, causing complete destruction to the property, as recounted by an eyewitness on Friday (Feb 2, 2024).
Tragically, the pilot and two individuals on the ground lost their lives, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Plane Crashes in Florida
The final guest decided to linger a bit longer to finish her drink. She, along with her host, was inside the home when it suddenly erupted in flames, as shared by their neighbor Rick Renner with The Associated Press.
The pilot of the single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza V35 had reported engine failure shortly before the crash occurred at approximately 7 p.m. on Thursday, according to the FAA.
Firefighters faced challenges in determining the exact number of individuals present within the double-wide mobile home.
Renner recounted that he swiftly hopped into his golf cart, reaching the crash site shortly before the arrival of emergency crews. He engaged in a conversation with a neighbor across the street who had recently departed from the gathering. Additionally, he took the initiative to ensure the safety of other neighbors, confirming they were not in any immediate danger.
“It was just a massive inferno,” Renner expressed. “You couldn’t even discern the presence of a mobile home.”
The identities of the victims were withheld and awaited positive identification, as well as notification to their families, stated Clearwater Police Chief Eric Gandy in an email on Friday. The aircraft had departed earlier in the day from Vero Beach on Florida’s east coast, he added.
The fortunate departure of most individuals from their homes before the plane crash prevented a much more significant loss of life, emphasized Gandy.
“Our condolences go out to the three victims and their families,” he remarked. “This tragedy had the potential to be even more devastating.”
Crash under Investigation
At a late-night news conference, Clearwater Fire Chief Scott Ehlers conveyed that the wreckage of the plane ultimately ended up inside the mobile home, which was completely consumed by the fire and reduced to ashes. The removal of the wreckage was scheduled for Saturday.
The pilot signaled an emergency to St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport just before the plane disappeared from radar, approximately 3 miles north of a runway, according to Ehlers. The airport is situated about 7 miles southeast of Clearwater.
An investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in Clearwater on Friday morning to document the scene and inspect the aircraft, as stated by the agency.
The investigation will focus on three main areas—the pilot, the aircraft, and the operating environment. It will analyze flight track data, recordings of air traffic control communications, the weather forecast and conditions at the time of the crash, witness statements, and any available surveillance video.
Renner and his friends were watching television when they were startled by a loud boom. “The house literally shook, and the windows were vibrating,” Renner recalled.
Renner described the host of the gathering as a “snowbird” who had been spending her winters in the mobile home park for several years. “Everyone is in disbelief,” he added.
Mary Fagan, aged 63, residing down the street, informed the Times that her mother used to own the double-wide. She mentioned that another family member, now residing in Illinois, is the current owner of the home. Fagan hurried to the scene and joined fellow neighbors as they observed firefighters extinguishing the flames.
Seventy-two-year-old Joe Miller, residing in the adjacent property, recounted that he was on the verge of falling asleep when an “unbelievable roar” jolted him. Covered in insulation and shattered glass, he found himself thrown to the floor.
Still trembling and wrapped in a blanket hours later, Miller shared with the Tampa Bay Times that he navigated through the wreckage of his mobile home, torn apart by the explosion. Upon emerging outside, he was met by flames leaping from the neighboring home.
Having spent eight years in the mobile home within a sizable 55-plus community off U.S. 19, Miller expressed to the newspaper that he is uncertain about his next steps.
“The roof has been blown off, and I have no idea what’s left inside,” he remarked. “All I know is that I’m fortunate to be alive.”
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