Four People Killed During Mid-Air Plane Crash in Winter Haven
According to early details from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, four people were killed yesterday afternoon during a mid-air collision between two small planes near the Winter Haven Regional Airport.
Preliminary reports from responding law enforcement agencies indicate that it was approximately 2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, when officers with the Winter Haven Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to Lake Hartridge, located to the east of the Winter Haven Regional Airport.
Upon their arrival, they discovered two downed airplanes in the middle of the lake, one partially submerged and the other completely underwater. Dive teams and additional Polk County emergency watercraft vessels were called to the area and immediately started the search & rescue process. After several hours, four victims of the plane crash were pulled from the lake: 19-year-old Polk State College student Zachary Jean Mace, pilot & flight instructor 24-year-old Faith Irene Baker from Winter Haven, 67-year-old Randall Elbert Crawford from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and 78-year-old Louis C. DeFazio who lived in both Winter Haven and Fredericksburg, Texas.
Investigators have stated that the two airplanes involved in this crash were later identified as a Piper Cherokee-style aircraft and a Piper J-3 Cub seaplane, operated by Sunrise Aviation in Ormond Beach and Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base in Winter Haven, respectively. Randall Elbert Crawford and Louis C. DeFazio were aboard the Piper J-3 Cub seaplane and Zachary Jean Mace and Faith Irene Baker were in the other aircraft when the collision occurred.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will be running point on this investigation and plan to remove the wreckage from Lake Hartridge by the end of the week.
Multiple community members, church groups, and faculty with Polk State College have taken to social media to express their condolences. The college itself will be providing grief and mental health counselors to students and staff, both on-campus and online. “Our Polk State College family is devastated by this tragedy. We extend our deepest condolences to their families, friends, and colleagues,” Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti said in a statement to the press.
James O. Cunningham
Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.