Authorities identify pilot killed in Fort Lauderdale plane crash

Derek Morgan, 28, was training to become commercial pilot

By Tim Swift - Local10.com Digital Editor, Sanela Sabovic - Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Authorities have identified the pilot who was killed Friday when his small banner plane crashed into a Fort Lauderdale condominium building as 28-year-old Derek Morgan.

A native of Washington state, Morgan moved to South Florida six weeks ago. His family and friends said flying was his dream. Morgan had his commercial license and someday wished to fly for a commercial airline.

"It's a tragedy. It's a tragedy for the family. It's a tragedy for all of us," said Patrick Phipps, Morgan's friend. "He traveled all across the country just to get here to do some flight hours."

The Piper PA-25 plane was registered to Aerial Banners Inc., which is based at North Perry Airport. The plane was set to fly along Fort Lauderdale beach.

Surveillance video shows the moments leading up to the fatal crash. Morgan's banner plane veered west and slammed into the Berkeley South Condominium in the 3000 block of North Ocean Boulevard just before noon Friday. The plane struck between the 16th and 17th floors and plummeted onto to the building's pool area, which was under construction.

No one else was hurt, but the impact of the crash punched a hole in the wall of the condo building. 

"He seemed like he was a dedicated pilot, couldn't wait to get into an airplane and fly. That's all he talked about when he got here," Phipps said. 

The wreckage was removed early Saturday. Although the plane did not have a flight recorder onboard, investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board are hoping to obtain Morgan's mobile phone, which could have some navigational information on it.

"For the six weeks that young man was here, he impacted so many people's lives in such a positive way. It's a shame," Phipps said.

Derek Morgan, 28, with his close friend, Patrick C.

Another friend, Patrick C., described Morgan to Local 10 News as an "amazing close friend who was always up for an adventure, full of laughs, and a true MacGyver because (he) loved fixing anything mechanical or with a motor." 

"Derek was one of the hardest working individuals I have ever met who dreamt of flying since we were kids and dedicated everything to achieve his goal of becoming a pilot," Patrick said. "Derek will truly be missed by his close friends (brothers) and family."

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