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Flight school involved in Everglades crashes shuts down

4 people from Dean International died last week after mid-air collision

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Dean International, the troubled flight school that was involved in a fatal mid-air crash last week that left four people dead, has shut down, the company said Monday.

Dozens of students found out about the closure as they gathered for a memorial for the victims of Tuesday's mid-air collision at Dean International headquarters at Miami Executive Airport.

Dean International's lawyers and owners conferred Sunday and decided to shut down and liquidate the company, said Robert Dean, the flight school's owner.

“We were planning on downsizing a little bit, and this took place, and there was just no way. We can’t live with ourselves to know that this took place,” Dean said.

However, Dean maintained that Tuesday's crash was not the company's fault and that the planes were working properly at the time of the crash. 

"There was no maintenance issue. Everything was OK with these planes. They didn't see each other. ... It just happened," Dean said.

He said the decision was voluntary and the Federal Aviation Administration did not order the school to shut down.

The closure affects about 200 students at varying levels of completion in their training to become pilots. Between 85 and 90 percent of the students are not U.S. citizens. The foreign students are expected to have issues with visas since the school that is listed on their visas is closing.

Nawaf Mojahed is from Saudi Arabia, and he had just one test left before he was a certified pilot.

"I have to go to other school, but other school said you have to get a new visa because your school is closing so I don’t know what to do so I guess I’m not going to be a commercial pilot anymore,” Mojahed said.

Dean said no planes would be taking off, but the school will remain open for three months to allow students to transition to other flight schools.

Students protested the move and have demanded their tuition be refunded. The students said the decision to shutter the school took them by surprise.

"What are we going to do now? Nothing!" student Basil Aladwani said. 

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Carlos Alfredo Zanetti, 22, Jorge Sanchez, 22, Ralph Knight, 72, and Nisha Sejwal, 19, were killed Tuesday when their planes crashed near the border to the Everglades, police said. The FAA said the planes involved in the crash were a Piper PA-34 and a Cessna 172.

The same flight school was also involved in another crash over the Everglades in May. Two people suffered serious injuries in that crash.

In 2017, Dean International student Mark Ukaere was killed when he took a small 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.

In the last 10 years, records show there have been at least 24 incidents involving the school that required investigation. The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating last week's crashes.


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