Pilot killed in Fort Lauderdale Beach banner plane crash ID’d amid probe

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Police have identified the pilot who died after his small banner plane crashed into a Fort Lauderdale Beach condominium, as crews removed the wreckage from the damaged building.

7News cameras captured a crane lifting the last parts of the periled aircraft from the high-rise in the area of Oakland Park Boulevard and A1A, Saturday.

Fort Lauderdale Police identified the pilot killed in Friday morning’s crash as 28-year-old Derek Morgan.

Condo resident Roger Miller said he’s lucky to be alive.

“I came around the corner into the kitchen, and that’s when the crash happened,” he said.

The plane smashed into Miller’s unit before tumbling some 16 stories below onto the pool deck.

“We jumped out of our seats and said, ‘What happened?”‘ said another resident. “I thought a scaffolding fell.”

The area was under construction, so no residents were out there, but 20 construction workers were. They all walked away unhurt.

“It’s a recipe for disaster, especially when you have 20 individuals there that are just doing their job, working,” said Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Chief Stephen Gollan.

What led to the crash remains a mystery, but the very same aircraft had a previous close call back in 2015, when it made an emergency landing, banner in tow, near downtown Los Angeles, according to California news outlets.

The pilot at the time managed to walk away.

The banner plane belongs to Aerial Banners Inc. in Pembroke Pines. The company has seen several crashes in South Florida over the years.

In 2006, a banner plane crashed in Opa-locka and burst into flames. The pilot was transported to the hospital in critical condition. The Federal Aviation Administration ruled it was pilot error.

In November 2007, one of its planes plunged into the ground after stalling in midair at North Perry Airport. The pilot suffered critical injuries.

The FAA stepped in and revoked Aerial Banners’ waiver to operate. From 2005 to 2007, there were two plane crashes, two hard landings and one pilot ran out of fuel. There were also four paperwork violations.

But the company was back in business a short time later.

As for Friday’s ill-fated flight, federal authorities continue efforts to determine what went wrong.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating whether this was pilot error, mechanical failure or something else.

A spokesperson for Aerial Banners said that although Morgan was an experienced pilot, he was still learning the process of banner towing. He was not flying an advertisement on Friday, but still practicing.

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