2 people dead after small plane attempts emergency landing on southwest Florida interstate
February 9, 2024 By The Associated Press
NAPLES, Fla. (AP) — Two people have died after a small plane attempted to make an emergency landing on Interstate 75 in southwest Florida on Friday afternoon, colliding with a vehicle and bringing traffic to a halt as a massive plume of black smoke rose into the air.
The crash landing happened near the Pine Ridge Road exit in Collier County, just north of where the interstate heads east toward Fort Lauderdale along what is known as Alligator Alley.
Brianna Walker, 26, witnessed as the wing of the plane dragged the car in front of hers and slammed into the wall.
“It’s seconds that separated us from the car in front of us,” she said. “The wing pulverized this one car.”
Walker and her friend saw the plane moments before it hit the highway, allowing her friend to pull over before the crash.
“The plane was over our heads by inches,” she said. “It took a hard right and skid across the highway.”
Walker said an explosion of flames then burst from the plane with a loud boom. Pieces of the plane littered the highway.
“It feels unreal like a movie,” she said. “It was seconds between us dying.”
The Federal Aviation Administration identified the aircraft as a Bombardier Challenger 600 jet and said the crash happened about 3:15 p.m.
Collier County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Adam Fisher confirmed two deaths, but said he didn’t immediately know whether the victims had been passengers are the plane or on the ground.
According to the FlightAware aircraft tracker, the plane was operated by Hop-a-Jet Worldwide Charter based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It took off from an airport at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, at about 1:02 p.m. and was scheduled to land in Naples at 3:12 p.m. After that, the aircraft was scheduled to fly to Fort Lauderdale. Hop-a-Jet did not immediately respond to an email and phone message seeking comment.
A spokesperson for Ohio State University said the aircraft is not affiliated with the university, and they have no further information about it.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board will investigate, with the NTSB leading the investigation.
The Florida Highway Patrol said in a news release that the southbound lanes of the interstate were closed and advised motorists to seek alternate routes. A photo captured by the Florida Department of Transportation showed a huge plume of black smoke rising from the plane.