1 dead, 2 injured after plane crashes into Winter Haven home
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (FOX 13) - One person has died after a plane crashed into a Winter Haven home Saturday afternoon.
The crash happened around 12:45 p.m. at a home on a Idylridge Way, just south of the Winter Haven Airport.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said 64-year-old instructor pilot James Wagner of Lakeland and 33-year-old student pilot Timothy Sheehy of Bozeman, Montana were on board when the plane took off from the Winter Haven Airport. They were scheduled to perform simulated engine failure training when the plane crashed.
Wagner died in the crash, but Judd said Sheehy was able to climb out of the wreckage on his own. He suffered minor injuries.
According to the sheriff's office, three people were inside the home at the time of the crash, and three children, ages 2, 11 and 15, were playing in the front yard.
Carmelle Ngalamulume, 17, was in one of the bedrooms and became pinned and trapped after the crash.
"We're shocked at how minor her injuries are," Judd said, noting the teen was transported to the hospital.
Judd said Carmelle's brother, 20-year-old Joel, was in an adjoining room and tried to free his sister. Their mother, Emerance, was taking a shower when the plane went down into the home.
"As tragic as this was for Mr. Wagner, it was a blessing today that we didn't have an entire family wiped out," Judd said. "It is an unbelieveable set of circumstances. We certainly expected to find the worst."
Family of Wagner described him as an avid pilot with more than 30 years of experience.
“He just had the kindest heart and he was patient and loving and he wasn’t judgmental," Wagner's son-in-law, Luis Nunez, told FOX 13. "And he would help anybody. Just anyone who needed help or an ear to listen to, he was there.”
At one time, he flew for Jimmy Buffet. He'd also flown for Publix grocery stores and regularly taught other pilots how to fly. Wagner leaves behind his longtime wife, daughter, and 3-year-old grandson, who is also named James.
“He was the best grandfather to our son James," Nunez said. "My son loves him. This is devastating because he looked up to him.”
The FAA and the Polk County Sheriff's Office are still investigating to find out the cause of the crash. The NTSB is expected to be at the crash scene Sunday to complete their own investigation.