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4 dead after 2 small planes collide over Lake Hartridge in Polk County

Winter Haven Regional Airport located adjacent to lake
Two planes collided over Lake Hartridge in Winter Haven, Florida, on March 7, 2023, police said.
Posted at 3:16 PM, Mar 07, 2023

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. — Four people were killed after two small planes collided Tuesday afternoon in Central Florida, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities said the midair collision occurred at about 2 p.m. in Polk County over Lake Hartridge.

Winter Haven police and fire rescue crews with the city responded to the scene along with the Polk County Sheriff's Office and Polk County Fire Rescue.

The sheriff's office said all four victims who were in the two planes that crashed were located.

Three of those people were identified as:

  • Faith Irene Baker, 24, of Winter Haven, a pilot/flight instructor with Sunrise Aviation (Cherokee Piper 161)
  • Zachary Jean Mace, 19, of Winter Haven, a student at Polk State College (Cherokee Piper 161)
  • Randall Elbert Crawford, 67, from Carlisle, Pennsylvania (Piper J-3 Cub)

Deputies were working to confirm the identity of the fourth deceased person who was on the Piper J-3 Cub.

Investigators said all four people who were located were the only occupants of the planes.

During an evening news conference, Polk County Sherrif's Office Chief of Staff Steve Lester said one plane was partially submerged. However, the other plane had settled on the bottom of the lake and was under 21 feet of water.

Winter Haven Regional Airport is located adjacent to the lake.

Members of the National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration were headed to the scene to investigate the crash, the sheriff's office said.