Probe after two die as private jet crashes onto major road in Florida
The jet, with five people aboard, was bound for the airport in Naples when it tried to make an emergency landing on Interstate 75 on Friday afternoon. Witnesses say the plane collided with a vehicle, with the wing dragging a car before slamming into a wall. An explosion followed, with flames and black smoke rising from the scene.
Two people were killed, according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, but it was not immediately known whether the victims had been passengers on the plane or on the ground. US federal authorities have launched an investigation into the crash near Naples, just north of where the interstate heads east toward Fort Lauderdale along what is known as Alligator Alley. One US National Transportation Safety Board investigator arrived at the crash site on Friday afternoon, with several more expected to arrive on Saturday.
The plane had taken off from an airport at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, at about 1pm (6pm GMT). It was scheduled to land in Naples around the time of the crash, Naples Airport Authority spokesperson Robin King said, when pilot contacted the tower requesting an emergency landing.
The plane crashed on the Interstate 75 road (Chris O’Conner via AP)
“Got that. Emergency. Clear to land.
Runway. Two. Three,” the air traffic controller responded to the pilot, in audio obtained by The Associated Press.
“We’re clear to land but we’re not gonna make the runway. We’ve lost both engines,” the pilot calmly replied. The tower lost contact, and then airport workers saw the smoke from the interstate just a few miles away, Ms King said.
She said they sent fire trucks with special foam to the scene, and three of the five people on board were taken from the wreckage alive. Brianna Walker saw the wing of the plane drag the car in front of hers and slam into the wall. “It’s seconds that separated us from the car in front of us,” she said. “The wing pulverised this one car.”
Ms Walker and her friend spotted the plane moments before it hit the major road, allowing her friend to pull over before the crash.
One vehicle was said to have been ‘pulverised’ by the plane (Chris O’Conner via AP)
“The plane was over our heads by inches,” she said. “It took a hard right and skid across the highway.”
According to the FlightAware aircraft tracker, the plane was operated by Hop-a-Jet Worldwide Charter based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The aircraft had been scheduled to fly back to Fort Lauderdale on Friday afternoon. Hop-a-Jet said on Friday night that it had “received confirmed reports of an accident involving one of our leased aircraft near Naples” and would send a team to the crash site, the Naples Daily News reported.
“Our immediate concern is for the well-being of our passengers, crew members, and their families,” the statement said. It didn’t contain details of the crash. A spokesperson for Ohio State University said the aircraft is not affiliated with the university, and they had no further information about it.
Federal authorities said a preliminary report about the cause of the crash can be expected in 30 days.