PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. - The National Transportation Safety Board is zeroing in on a crash site in the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Preserve. A safety investigator is on scene, and is expected to be for the next few days.
Two people died when the single-engine SR-22 plane crashed Sunday night. It happened in an area west of State Road 7 and south of Boynton Beach Boulevard in a remote area of the preserve.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are assisting, helping from the air and the ground. Surrounded by miles of swamp, investigators have a few things working against them in the quest for a cause.
"There's about a foot of water out there and below that, seven feet of peat or mud. The plane nose-dived into the mud, all that we can see out there is the tail," says Bill Calvert, with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Airboats are the only means of traveling to the site, from the mobile command area officials set up west of Boynton Beach. Before investigators could even get there, a rocket on-board the plane had to be deemed safe.
"This airplane is equipped with a ballistic recovery parachute system that contains a rocket and we need to make sure it's safe before further work on the plane itself," says Dennis Diaz an Air Safety Investigator with the NTSB. Diaz flew down from Virginia Monday morning.
Dangerous wildlife could also pose a threat to investigators.
"That's going to make it a little bit more difficult than if it were an accident you could drive up to," says Diaz.
The identities of the people killed haven't been released although family of the victims were at the mobile command center Monday morning.
The plane was rented from Air Orlando, a flight school and rental company at the Orlando Executive Airport. Company manager John Painter say the pilot has more than 15 years of experience flying. He says the pilot flew to South Florida on a personal trip, and that the passenger was the pilot's relative. The two were stopping at the North Palm Beach Airport before heading home to Orlando, Painter said.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office says a distress call from a pilot in another airplane was relayed to the control tower at Palm Beach International Airport just before 6 p.m. Sunday. That pilot reported seeing the Cirrus SR-22 plane in trouble.