Thursday, 24 May 2018

ERAU student killed, instructor hurt in Port Orange plane crash

PORT ORANGE, Fla. -- An Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student was killed and a flight instructor injured in a plane crash Tuesday night, the second crash involving an ERAU student in two months.
Tuesday night's crash happened at Taxiway Echo near a private airstrip at the Spruce Creek Fly-In in Port Orange, according to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the Cessna 140 aircraft crashed into trees at about 7:30 p.m.

ERAU student Nandish Patel, 22, was killed, and the hospitalized flight instructor is Chase Zinn, 23, an alumnus who graduated last year, the university said in a statement. Zinn was taken to Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach as a trauma alert.

"The families of Nandish and Chase are close in our thoughts and hearts," ERAU said.

Federal aviation officials were back out at the scene Wednesday morning.

Austin Mitchell said he and a group of people ran toward the crash site, trying to help the pilot and copilot escape the wreckage.

"I helped rip the plane apart and carry the bodies to the EMTs," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said he saw the plane go down in a wooded area less than a mile away from the landing strip.

"You just heard the sputtering of the engine and breaking of twigs. There wasn't a ground shake, there wasn't any screeching, or loud bangs, there wasn't smoke, either. It was very quiet," he said.

It is still unclear what caused the plane to go down. There were no injuries on the ground.

It never gets easier for NTSB air safety investigator Dan Boggs to see this plane wreckage towed away, especially after one lost his life.

"Its a flying community. I live up just the road, and we've all been here before, and it's always sad, its always sad, especially (because) they've got mother's and fathers," Boggs said.

He said they're looking into whether weather played a factor, checking the pilot's experience and his past, plus checking to see if it may have been a mechanical issue.

Records show it was manufactured in the 1940s and registered to a private owner.

"It's an old airplane, but I looked at it, and it was maintained meticulously. It was a beautiful looking airplane," Boggs said.

NTSB said they're told some surveillance video in the area may have captured what happened to the plane, and they're hoping the footage will lead them to some answers.

They said it will take months to figure out what happened, but they will be checking both the plane's engine and airframe Thursday.

In early April, a Piper PA-28 plane went down near Tomoka Farms Road in Daytona Beach, killing an Embry-Riddle student pilot and a Federal Aviation Administration pilot examiner.

The last crash at the Spruce Creek Fly-In was in December 2016, when two people were killed after their single-engine plane went down in a yard.
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