Federal and local authorities are investigating a plane crash involving two Dean International Flight School aircraft that collided midair over the Everglades Tuesday, killing four people.
The plane crash involved a Piper PA 34 and a Cessna 172 airplane operated by Dean International out of Miami Executive Airport in West Kendall, according to NBC Miami, Preliminary reports indicate that the plane crash killed two flight instructors and two students, presumably one instructor and one student per plane.
Authorities identified the plane crash victims as Jorge Sanchez, 22; Nisha Sejwal, 19; Carlos Alfredo Zanetti Scarpati, 22; and Ralph Knight, 72. Mr. Knight and Mr. Sanchez were certified pilots and flight instructors.
The planes and wreckage landed in a remote part of the Everglades accessible only by airboat. Search and Rescue teams were hampered by the remoteness of the crash as well as the swampy terrain. Three of the victims’ bodies were recovered Tuesday. The body of Mr. Zanetti Scarpati was located and recovered on Wednesday morning.
“The environment makes it a little difficult for the investigators,” Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “We’re looking at swampy areas. There is a lot of mush. One of the planes is not intact. Therefore they have to go searching for parts of the aircraft, to piece the puzzle together.”
On May 8, a Cessna 152 operated by Dean International Flight School crashed while returning to its home base, injuring two people.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) records show that Dean International had 29 planes go down before the most recent two crashes, resulting in the deaths of five people.
“After two crashes in 2017 – one where a pilot was killed after crashing in the Everglades and another where two people were not injured following a crash landing in Key Biscayne – nearly 80 percent of the company’s 50 planes were taken out of service to deal with issues ranging from routine maintenance to faulty beaks, loose and missing screws and more,” NBC Miami reported.