One person was killed and another person suffered serious injuries when a small plane crashed into an empty building in Fort Myers, Florida, on Saturday, June 24 at around 7:45 a.m. The plane reportedly crashed shortly after takeoff from nearby Page Field. The crash resulted in other planes diverting their flight path north of the accident scene while investigators examined the wreckage. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is now investigating the crash and will consider numerous potential factors in the plane crash, including aircraft maintenance, weather and human error.
Passenger Died, Pilot Injured in Florida Plane Crash
The plane’s wreckage was taken from the crash site on Sunday, June 25. According to reports, the plane’s passenger-who was later identified as 37-year-old Marc Scott-died in the crash while the pilot escaped but suffered serious injuries. Officials later identified the pilot as Anthony Greco.
The plane reportedly burst into flames after it crashed into the building. Greco escaped from the plane, but the passenger was not able to.
“[Greco] was staggering down the sidewalk…he was out of the airplane,” Dan Boggs, lead crash investigator for the NTSB, told WINK News. “Before anybody could get around the corner, it burst into flames.”
A statement issued by the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association-an association of which Greco was a two-time president-acknowledged that Greco was in hospital before officials released his name.
“Anthony is in the hospital and his passenger passed in the accident,” the statement reads. “Please keep them and their families in your thoughts and prayers. Anthony and the entire Greco family have been leaders in this community for over 25 years, and now it will be (our) turn to help them in their time of need.”
Greco is also president of the Fort Myers Flying Club, the organization that owns the plane that crashed. He has years of experience flying regular and model planes. The flying club suspended activities for Saturday and Sunday, in case officials needed to inspect the club’s two other planes or interview members.
Cause of Fort Myers Plane Crash Remains Unclear
As officials from the NTSB, along with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the Lee County Port Authority, Fort Myers Police Department and South Trail Fire Department, continue their investigation into the plane crash, friends of Greco who are part of his flying club refused to speculate on what caused the crash.
“Variables challenge your abilities,” said Mike Jackson, vice president of the flying club. “Everybody needs to rely on the NTSB and the FAA. Speculation makes no sense. The only person who has a clue is the pilot.”
In a press conference, Boggs noted that the pilot tried to conduct an emergency landing on Metro Parkway after experiencing difficulty on takeoff, but clipped trees and crashed into the building.
He further noted that the fire destroyed much of the plane, leaving investigators with little of the aircraft to examine. The preliminary report is expected to take about 10 days to two weeks while an official report might not be ready for a year or more.
Witnesses told NBC News the plane was flying very low before its wings clipped the trees. It then flipped over and crashed into the building.
“(It) was flying very low, I’d say about 20 or 25 feet above my car,” said Ashley DeRose. “The top of the actual plane hit the top of the building, it did like a flip; a somersault, and then it hit the ground and set on fire.”
Piper Plane Crashed into Empty Building that Housed Day Care
Luckily, the building the Piper PA-28 crashed into was empty at the time of the small plane crash, though the building contains a childcare center that is open from Monday through Friday. The daycare that operates out of the building involved in the crash is operated by Bright Horizons and provides daycare for Chico’s employees. Although the Chico’s headquarters were still open, employees who use the daycare were told they could work from home for the time being.
“I can confirm that there was absolutely no Chico’s employees on-scene at the time of the crash, and no injuries to anyone who is employed there,”said Lee County Undersheriff Carmine Marceno.
Investigating Small Plane Crashes
Unlike commercial planes, private planes are not required to have a black box, which can make it more difficult to determine what caused the plane crash, especially in cases where the plane has caught fire. General aviation pilots are also not required to have the same level of training as commercial pilots.
Although the Piper PA-28 is generally viewed as a safe plane, the model has been involved in previous plane accidents.