Federal authorities are investigating what led two planes to collide in mid-air Tuesday near the border of the Everglades in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Miami-Dade police initially confirmed three people were killed in the collision and suspected a fourth person was involved but was not immediately located. On Wednesday, authorities confirmed and identified four plane crash victims as Jorge Sanchez, 22; Nisha Sejwal, 19; Carlos Alfredo Zanetti Scarpati, 22; and Ralph Knight, 72. Mr. Knight and Mr. Sanchez were certified pilots and flight instructors.
The planes and wreckage landed in a remote part of the Everglades accessible only by airboat. Search and Rescue teams were hampered by the remoteness of the crash as well as the swampy terrain. Three of the victims’ bodies were recovered Tuesday. The body of Mr. Zanetti Scarpati was located and recovered on Wednesday morning.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed that a Piper PA-34 and a Cessna 172 were the two planes involved in the crash and signs on both aircraft read “Dean International,” a flight school at the center of an ongoing federal investigation. Authorities believe the people aboard the planes were conducting training flights, which departed Miami Executive Airport.
The crash is the fifth incident involving Dean International within the past year but federal authorities have investigated 23 incidents involving the school within the past 10 years, including three fatal incidents. Following two crashes in 2017, one that was fatal, 80 percent of Dean International’s planes were grounded because of a variety of issues, including faulty beaks, and loose and missing screws.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is still investigating the cause of Tuesday’s collision.
We currently represent the family of a student pilot killed in March 2014 when the PIPER PA-44-180 aircraft he was co-piloting as a flight student crashed near Brunswick, Georgia, after departing from North Carolina with the intended destination of Jacksonville, Florida. The family alleges their son lost his life because the defendants should have known the aircraft was not properly maintained and they failed to warn the pilots about the possible problems with the plane. The defendants placed the pilots in a dangerous situation that they were not adequately trained to handle.
This case demonstrates what we frequently encounter, equipment failure is the underlying cause of an airplane crash. It also shows that with proper maintenance these types of tragedies could be prevented.