Four people are dead after a midair collision March 7 between a Piper J3 Cub on floats and a Piper PA-28-161 Cherokee in Winter Haven, Florida. The Cub was operated by the Jack Brown Seaplane Base, and the Cherokee by Sunrise Aviation for Polk State College. The victims in the Cherokee were Sunrise Aviation flight instructor Faith Baker, 24, and Polk State College student Zachary Mace, 19. One victim in the Cub was identified by the Polk County Sheriff’s office as 67-year-old Randall Crawford of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The fourth victim has not yet been identified.
Witnesses described hearing the aircraft collide over Lake Hartridge. The Cub can be seen in helicopter news footage floating upside down, and first responders’ boats presumably over the Cherokee, which sank in 21 feet of water approximately a quarter-mile from the Cub. Winter Haven police and fire responded to the report of the accident around 2 p.m.
According to its website, Polk State College offers a range of degrees in aeronautical sciences, including associate degrees in professional pilot science, aerospace administration and aviation maintenance administration, and bachelor’s degrees in aerospace sciences. Widely respected, the Jack Brown Seaplane Base was started in 1963 by longtime seaplane enthusiast Jack Brown. In 2019, Brown’s son Jon sold the business to son-in-law and longtime instructor and FAA Designated Pilot Examiner Ben Shipps. According to its website, in its 57-year history, the specialized seaplane training operation has certified more than 22,000 pilots from all around the world and logs thousands of hours every year.
The fourth victim has been identified as long-time pilot and Jack Brown Seaplane Base instructor Louis DeFazio, 78, of Fredricksburg, Texas, and Winter Haven.
Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base posted on its Facebook page: “It is with heavy hearts that we mourn the loss of instructor and dear friend, Lou DeFazio, and fellow seaplane enthusiast and long-time customer of the Base, Randall Crawford, in yesterday’s accident. Our prayers and deepest sympathies are with the families, friends, and entire Polk State community as we walk through this dark time together.”