3 killed as a small plane crashes into a Florida mobile home

Feb 1, 2024, 8:40 PM | Updated: Feb 2, 2024, 1:22 pm

CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) — About 10 people had enjoyed a day of golf and were having drinks inside a woman’s mobile home moments before a small plane crashed and obliterated the property, an eyewitness said Friday. The pilot and two people on the ground were killed, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The last of the guests had lingered to finish her drink, and she was in the home along with her host when it went up in flames, their neighbor Rick Renner told The Associated Press.

The pilot of the single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza V35 had reported engine failure shortly before crashing into the Bayside Waters mobile home park around 7 p.m. Thursday, the FAA said.

Firefighters couldn’t immediately tell how many people were inside the double-wide mobile home. But Renner said he jumped in his golf cart and reached the crash site shortly before emergency crews arrived. He spoke with a neighbor across the street who had just left the party, and he checked to make sure other neighbors weren’t in danger.

“It was just one big ball of flames,” Renner said. “You couldn’t even tell there was a mobile home there.”

The identities of the victims were not immediately released and are pending positive identification and notice to family, Clearwater Police Chief Eric Gandy said in an email Friday. The aircraft had taken off earlier in the day from Vero Beach, on Florida’s east coast, he added.

The fact that most of the people in the home had left before the plane went down averted a far greater loss of life, Gandy said.

“Our thoughts are with the three victims and their families; this tragedy could have been even worse,” the chief said.

Clearwater Fire Chief Scott Ehlers told a late-night news conference that the plane’s wreckage ended up inside the mobile home, which was reduced to ashes in the blaze. The wreckage was scheduled to be removed Saturday.

The pilot reported an emergency to St. Pete–Clearwater International Airport shortly before the plane went off radar, about 3 miles (5 kilometers) north of a runway, Ehlers said. The airport is about 7 miles (11 kilometers) southeast of Clearwater.

An investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in Clearwater on Friday morning to document the scene and examine the aircraft, the agency said told The Associated Press.

The investigation will involve three primary areas — the pilot, the aircraft and the operating environment — and consider the flight track data, recordings of any air traffic control communications, the weather forecast and conditions at the time of the crash, witness statements and any surveillance video.

Renner had been watching television with friends when they heard the loud boom. “The house actually shook, and the windows rattled,” Renner said.

Renner said the gathering’s host was a “snowbird” who spent her winters in the mobile home park for years. “Everybody is shocked,” he said.

Joe Miller, 72, lived next door. He said he was drifting off to sleep when he heard an “unbelievable roar” and was thrown to the floor covered in insulation and broken glass. Wrapped in a blanket and still shaking hours later, he told the Tampa Bay Times he scrambled through the wreckage of his mobile home, which was ripped apart by the explosion, and was greeted outside by leaping flames from the home next door.

Mary Fagan, 63, who lives down the street, told the Times that her mother used to own the double-wide. She said another family member who lives in Illinois now owns the home, and neighbors called her Thursday evening, saying “Your mom’s mobile is on fire.”

She said she rushed to the scene and joined other neighbors as they watched firefighters douse the flames.

After eight years in the mobile home, in a large 55-plus community off U.S. 19, Miller told the newspaper he has no idea what he will do now.

“The roof’s blown off, and I don’t know what’s left inside. I just know I’m lucky to be here,” he said.


Dupuy reported from New York. Associated Press writer Freida Frisaro contributed from Fort Lauderdale.

National News

Associated Press

Virginia lawmakers repeal restrictions on popular tuition waiver program for military families

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to legislation that will repeal new restrictions on a tuition waiver program for military families. The House of Delegates and state Senate each voted unanimously to fully restore the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program, which offers free college tuition at state schools for […]

19 minutes ago

North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson listens during a meeting of the N.C. State...

Associated Press

NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson announces his retirement after nearly 15 years in the role

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Another chancellor in North Carolina’s public university system has announced plans to step down — this time at the state’s largest university by enrollment. North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson declared his retirement plans at the university’s trustees meeting Thursday, capping off nearly 15 years in his role. His term […]

47 minutes ago

Associated Press

Kansas won’t force providers to ask patients why they want abortions while a lawsuit proceeds

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas isn’t enforcing a new law requiring abortion providers to ask patients why they want to terminate their pregnancies, as a legal challenge against that rule and other older requirements makes its way through the courts. Attorneys for the state and for providers challenging the new law along with other requirements […]

1 hour ago

Associated Press

Salman Rushdie’s alleged assailant won’t see author’s private notes before trial

MAYVILLE, N.Y. (AP) — Author Salman Rushdie does not have to turn over private notes about his stabbing to the man charged with attacking him, a judge ruled Thursday, rejecting the alleged assailant’s contention that he is entitled to the material as he prepares for trial. Hadi Matar’s lawyers in February subpoenaed Rushdie and publisher […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, R-Ark., speaking during the Republican National Convention Tues...

Associated Press

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders announces trade mission to Europe

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday said she’s traveling to Europe for her second trade mission there as governor, which will include a visit to an air show in the United Kingdom. The Republican governor announced she’s traveling to the Farnborough Air Show, which begins July 22, to pitch […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally...

Associated Press

What to know about the Secret Service’s Counter Sniper Team

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. Secret Service sniper killed the would-be assassin of former President Donald Trump in a split-second decision, taking out the man perched on an adjacent rooftop. Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle has publicly praised the sniper’s quick work on Saturday. But the Counter Sniper Team is now subject to a review […]

1 hour ago

3 killed as a small plane crashes into a Florida mobile home