Pilot Killed When Small Plane Crashes Into Florida Home, Pinning 17-Year-Old Girl

By Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times
February 25, 2019 Updated: February 25, 2019

MIAMI—Authorities say a flight instructor was killed when his small plane lost power and crashed into a Florida home.

James Wagner was in the twin-engine plane with a pilot in training, 33-year-old Timothy Sheehy of Montana, when the plane crashed into a home near Winter Haven Regional Airport on Feb. 23.

The plane crashed at 12:45 p.m. into a home at 2735 Idylridge Drive in Winter Haven, just south of the regional airport.

It’s not clear who was flying the plane. The Orlando Sentinel reports the two had planned to conduct a simulated engine failure but authorities don’t know whether the crash happened during the training.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd in a press conference near the site said the 64-year-old pilot died in the crash. Sheehy miraculously walked out of the crash.

Janie Cowper who lives near the crash site was riding her bicycle in the area when the crash happened. She told The Ledger that the plane while crashing was “hovering, rocking back and forth,” and was “unbelievably loud.”

“I thought, oh my God, it was diving into the top of the house,” she told The Ledger.

Cowper saw a girl next door to the crash site running out of her house, screaming. Neighbors rushed out to see what was happening and Cowper saw a man “pulling a bloody leg,” walking down the driveway.

The plane landed near a 10 x 12 bedroom, pinning 17-year-old girl, Carmelle Ngalamulume, inside against a wall and leaving her with minor injuries.

Her brother, Joel, 20 rushed to help her but was unable to free her from the collapsed wall. Emergency responders reached the spot and freed Ngalamulume who was taken to an area hospital. Her condition was listed as stable on Saturday afternoon.

When the crash happened, their mother Emerance was taking a shower in the bathroom and the other three children in the household, ages 2, 11, 15, were playing in the driveway. They were not injured.

“So as tragic as this was for Mr. Wagner, and it was tragic, it was a blessing today that we didn’t have an entire family wiped out,” Judd said.

Neighbors were seen hugging each other. Pilots at the crash site said that the pilot lost one engine on his multi-engine aircraft, the Ledger reported.

“A little altitude would have helped him land, but with an engine out …,” said Richard Jones, a pilot who knew Wagner since 20 years ago.

“I flew with him, he was an excellent pilot,” said Jones. He emphasized that it was not a pilot error.

“Their goal today was simulated engine failure training,” Judd told The Ledger.

“Let me underscore we do not know, at this time, if they were simulating engine failure when they crashed,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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