Polk County plane crash kills pilot flying experimental aircraft: ‘Horrible tragedy’

A deadly plane crash is under investigation in Polk County.

According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, 76-year-old Arthur Canning was killed Tuesday morning when his plane crashed near the South Lakeland Airport in Mulberry. 

One person was killed in a plane crash in Mulberry.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Canning had been a pilot for ten years and had been flying ultralights for the past decade. 

He added that the plane that went down was a brand-new experimental amateur build, or EAB, that received its certificates last fall.

According to Judd, Canning flew the plane for the first time less than a week ago. 

During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, Judd said Canning taxied down to start and fly into the wind, which is protocol. As he got off the ground, Judd says witnesses told investigators they heard the engine sputter.

"He apparently stalled and crashed directly into the ground," Judd stated. "He immediately died as a result of horrific traumatic injuries from the crash."

Investigators at scene of deadly plane crash in Mulberry.

Investigators at scene of deadly plane crash in Mulberry. 

Wayne Beyer has been a pilot for 50 years. He said he was standing near the runway when he saw the tragedy unfold. It took around 20 seconds from takeoff to the point of the crash. 

"The engine cut off, and then it started a little bit, and it was cut off again and that was it," said Beyer. "I think the wind got it when he tried to turn, or the airplane turned. He should've just kept the nose down straight ahead and landed." 

Judd noted that the airfield is a popular grass airstrip that is called the South Lakeland Airport. He said people live adjacent to the airfield and park their planes at their homes. 

"It’s a horrible tragedy and certainly not something any of us want to witness," Judd added. "He was up and into the ground in seconds.

PCSO is conducting a death investigation and the NTSB and FAA are investigating the crash. 

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