MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Investigators are looking into Dean International Flight School again, after a small plane crashed Thursday night in the Florida Everglades.
In the last 10 years, records show there have been 23 incidents involving the school that required investigation. Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said their Cessna 152 crashed at 10:41 p.m. It was heading to the Tamiami area.
Miami-Dade Fire Rescue spokeswoman Erika Benitez said air, land and water units were deployed to search for the wreckage in dark and treacherous areas of the Florida Everglades.
Local 10 News photojournalist Marcus Effinger reported firetrucks and other emergency vehicles were parked along both sides of North Krome Avenue and West Okeechobee Road shortly after receiving reports about the crash.
Marshall Jones, the owner of Mack's Fish Camp near the Everglades, told Local 10 News reporter Madeleine Wright that first responders drove through his property while looking for the crash site.
"There was a blinding rainstorm that came in," Jones said. "It was a small cell, but very, very aggressive. These smaller aircraft, their motors are susceptible to environmental conditions. When the temperature changes drastically, it can affect the performance of the motor, so basically you can lose all power."
Benitez said it took just a few minutes for the air rescue crew to spot the wreckage in a swampy area with tall sawgrass. Benitez said the crew was using night vision goggles when they found two survivors trapped within the mangled plane.
Two medics and crew members aboard a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue airboat got into knee-deep water, where snakes and alligators roam, to help lift the plane. The two survivors were airlifted to Kendall Regional Medical Center, where they remained early Saturday morning.
Bergen said the FAA will investigate the crash and the National Transportation Safety Board will determine the probable cause of the accident. Investigators were focusing on Dean International Flight School.
The crash comes nearly a year after Dean International student Mark Ukaere was killed when he took the same type of plane for a flight without permission. He was supposed to be flying with an instructor, but his girlfriend, Mercy Akinyemi, who lives in New Jersey, said he told her the instructor never showed up.
Robert Dean, the flight school's owner, attributed the cause of the crash that killed Ukaere, 29, to spatial disorientation due to the darkness of the night over the Everglades. Ukaere's body was found the morning after the crash near the wreckage.