NTSB releases report for Winter Haven plane crash

The National Transportation Safety Board released a preliminary report revealing new details about a plane crash into a house in Winter Haven.

The initial crash happened in late February at a home on Idylridge Way, just south of the Winter Haven Airport.  Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said 64-year-old instructor pilot James Wagner, of Lakeland, and 33-year-old student pilot Timothy Sheehy, of Bozeman, Montana, were on board when the plane took off from the Winter Haven Airport.

The two were scheduled to perform simulated engine failure training when the plane crashed into a family’s home.  Wagner died in the crash, but Judd said Sheehy was able to climb out of the wreckage on his own. He suffered minor injuries. 

A 17-year-old girl was in one of the bedrooms and became pinned and trapped after the crash. At first, her injuries were reported as minor; however, the new report states her injuries were serious.  The report also states that, so far, investigators have not found any mechanical errors within the plane.

Captain Robert Katz, a commercial pilot and certified flight instructor, said the crash could have been avoided. He explained that, when simulating engine failure, pilots should always be away from homes and fly at a higher altitude than the pair were flying, when they crashed.

“To simulate that low to the ground is a dangerous choice because you’re not giving yourself a lot of room to work with if the recovery doesn’t go as planned,” said Katz.

A full crash report should be available in the next 18 months.