Fourth body found in Everglades following fatal midair plane crash

SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - A fourth body has been found the day after two planes collided in midair over the Everglades.

The body was found at 9:25 a.m., Wednesday, by fire rescue crews. This search has been ongoing since Tuesday afternoon, when the Federal Aviation Administration said two small aircraft crashed into each other.

Police later identified the victim as 22-year-old Carlo Alfredo Scrpati, a Dean International Flight School student.

“We have spoken to the family. The family was on scene,” said Miami-Dade Police Detective Alvaro Zabaleta. “Again, it’s heartbreaking.”

The search was conducted by Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and Miami-Dade Police, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Everglades National Park.

“We were out here training with our air boat, and that’s when we received the call,” said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Marine Operations Chief Andy Alvarez. “We were able to immediately respond to the area.”

The three other victims were identified Tuesday by police as 22-year-old Jorge Sanchez, 19-year-old Nisha Sejwal and 72-year-old Ralph Knight.

“Carlo, the person that we found today, Mr. Scarpati, he was a student, a fairly new student at the school,” Zabaleta said. “He was in the aircraft with the instructor Jorge Sanchez, who we identified yesterday as one of the bodies that we first recovered.”

Sejwal and Knight were inside the other plane that crashed.

“He is a pilot subcontracted inspector for FAA, and Nisha Sejwal, who’s the 19-year-old female that was identified yesterday, she is also a pilot,” Zabaleta said. “She was doing a flight check, and Mr. Knight was, obviously, the inspector.”

Friends of Sejwal said she had moved from India to the United States to attend the flight school.

According to Zabaleta, victim advocates are on hand to help family members cope with their loss.

Jesse Kennon, owner of Coopertown Airboats in the Everglades, said he sent some of his crew to help out with airboats as soon as he heard the planes crash.

“We did all our transportation and took them out to the sites where the planes went down so they can check the wreckage and whatever else was available,” he said. “We spent the rest of our afternoon doing that yesterday.”

It remains unknown what led to the latest crash.

“That’s something that the FAA is gonna have to look at along with NTSB, as far as the school itself,” said Zabaleta. “The Miami-Dade Police Department, of course, our main focus is going to be the death investigation.”

Police continue to work the scene and have set up a nearby mobile command unit. Officers anticipate that they will be out there for the next few days.

The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board continue to investigate.

“They will take a look at the mechanics of the aircraft to ensure that there wasn’t any kind of physical or mechanical component failure in their investigation,” said aviation law attorney Lea Bucciero.

Bucciero said the NTSB will look into the flight school’s history as part of the investigation.

“We’ll definitely speak to the flight school, [look into] what their practices and procedures are and try to make a determination as to whether there were any safety protocol violations that may have occurred,” she said.

Dean International Flight School has a lengthy history of tragedies.

The school operated aircraft that were involved in over a dozen crashes and emergency landings over the last two decades. The severity has ranged from no injuries to deaths.

Just two months ago, a Cessna belonging to the school crashed in the Everglades at night, seriously wounding two people on board.

According to the NTSB’s preliminary report for the May 3 crash, “The owner stated that the pilots lost control of the airplane while in the clouds, entered a spin from which they recovered, then entered another spin. After recovering from the second spin, the airplane collided with the terrain.”

In July of 2017, two crashes occurred just 12 days apart, both involving planes operated by the flight school.

On July 1, a private pilot died and a small plane was destroyed when it descended and crashed in the Everglades National Park.

On July 13, a Cessna struck tree branches and then a light pole before being forced to land on the road. According to the NTSB’s preliminary report, “The engine sputtered about two to three seconds, lost power, then increased briefly before losing power again.”

The private pilot who was receiving instructions escaped with minor injuries, and the instructor was not injured.

In 2014, a student pilot on a solo instructional flight died after crashing in a Cessna. The NTSB could not determine the cause of the accident because an inspection of the plane found no mechanical issues.

A report stated the pilot was instructed to stay within the air traffic pattern, but instead he went off course, over the ocean.

According to the FAA, Dean International Flight School has been the subject of 26 different FAA investigations, many resulting in fines.

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