‘Thoughtful’ pilot died heroically in Broward doing what he loved most, friends say

Witness: ‘Mitch you kept us safe! Thank you! Rest in peace’

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Friends of the 28-year-old pilot firefighters and police officers found dead after the recent fiery plane crash in Broward County said he died doing what he loved most.

Mitchell Knaus was piloting a single-engine Piper PA-25-235 when he crashed on Wednesday in Hollywood after departing from North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines.

Armando Diaz, who described Knaus as a kind and courteous hard worker, was among those show said there were signs indicating he had died heroically.

“It looked like, even at the time of crashing his plane, he even banked hard left to steer away from anybody that was in any sort of populated area, so that he wouldn’t cause any more damage,” Diaz said. “So that was Mitch! Very thoughtful, respectful, and just a really good person.”

More of Knaus’s friends stopped by North Park Road on Friday to drop off flowers at a growing makeshift memorial. Katherine Artiglio said Knaus sent her a text message before his last flight.

“He said, ‘I’ll be flying a yellow plane today in Ft Lauderdale area beaches from 12:30-1:30 then from 2-4 on South Beach, Miami. If you’re trying to see me fly or you’re at the beach today I’ll be the only one flying the banners today.’”

Air traffic controllers reported they were concerned when the plane started to lose altitude, but Knaus told them that he had things under control. Something changed, and Knaus got back on the radio to report that he had decided to drop a banner in an effort to gain altitude.

“He flew right over a residential area very low and he could’ve dropped that banner anywhere, but he didn’t because was obviously concerned for the neighborhoods,” said Rita Lloyd, who witnessed the crash and had a message for Knaus, “Mitch you kept us safe! Thank you! Rest in peace.”

Knaus had reported 325 hours of total flight experience, according to the feds. This included less than 20 hours flying the type of banner plane that has a history of crashes in South Florida. Another Aerial Banner pilot was killed when his plane slammed into a condo in 2019, in Fort Lauderdale.

After Knaus died, the Hollywood Police Department released some of the responding police officers’ body cam video showing the flames and the 911 calls that witnesses made.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigators, who are tasked with the ongoing investigation into the cause of the crash, are asking witnesses to e-mail videos to Witness@ntsb.gov.

About the Author:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.