1 dead, 3 injured when plane crashes into house


A Florida man died Thursday afternoon when a twin-engine Cessna 414 that he was piloting crashed into a house in North Fort Myers.

The crash occurred around 12:50 p.m. at 19344 Green Valley Court, according to the Lee County Sheriff's Office. The plane's wing crashed through the blue-gray home's lanai, killing the pilot and injuring the three passengers, but none of the home's residents were harmed.

Pilot John Nowicki III, 35, of 6044 86th Terrace S., Lake Worth, was killed in the crash. Jonathan Lee Lacy, 30, of 2290 Second St. S., Jacksonville; Skip David Nowicki-Lanigan, 15, of 1239 Olympic Circle, West Palm Beach; and John Nowicki Jr., 64, of 6044 86th Terrace South, Lake Worth, were taken to the trauma center at Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers.

A hospital spokeswoman declined to comment on their conditions or whether they remained in the hospital Thursday night, citing a recent federal medical privacy law.

The plane crashed into a home between the 13th and 14th holes in the Lake Fairways Country Club while en route to the Pine Shadows Air Park in North Fort Myers. Kathleen Bergen, public affairs manager for the Federal Aviation Administration, said she was not sure from where the flight had originated, although some reports indicated it might have flown out of an airport in West Palm Beach.

Pilots for recreational aircraft such as the Cessna 414, which can carry up to seven people, are not required to file flight plans detailing their routes before take-off.

The teenager crawled from the wreckage and managed to pull his grandfather, Nowicki Jr., partially out of the crumpled plane, witnesses said. They said the teenager appeared dazed and seemed uncertain of where he was. The boy borrowed resident Bob Clarke's cell phone and called his mother, Mary Nowicki-Lanigan, in Greenacres. He assured her that he was safe, but his uncle and grandfather were not.

His mother, who is pregnant with a child due in two weeks, said she was not ready to talk to reporters.

John Nowicki Jr.'s mother, Evelyn Nowicki of Lake Worth, sobbed Thursday afternoon while talking about her family's plane crash. She only knew at the time that her family was involved in the wreck.

"It's a miracle that anybody survived," she said.

She said John Nowicki Jr. recently had been working with airplanes, but she didn't know why her family had flown to Southwest Florida.

The plane's nose smashed into trees, crumpling its wings and severing the tail section. Gray upholstered seats were scattered across the ground near a pond. Some parts floated in the water.

Safety investigator Timothy Monville with the National Transportation Safety Board arrived Thursday night from Atlanta. He was unavailable for comment while en route.

An inquiry into the crash will not be completed for at least six months.

The plane was registered to Osprey Air Services in Delaware, which has a base in Plantation, Bergen said. Jonathan Lanigan, director of Osprey Air Services, was unavailable for comment Thursday. His attorney, Jeffrey Sarrow, declined comment.

When the plane crashed, it was less than 4 miles from Pine Shadows Air Park. Neighbors said the plane appeared to have stalled before spiraling to the ground.

The air park is a gated community with a 3,200-foot-long paved and lighted runway, which acting air park manager Dick Dobson said is supposed to be used only by residents and their guests. There are about 55 homes in the subdivision, and none of the residents on Thursday were expecting the four passengers as guests, he said.

"It didn't take long for everybody to call everybody," Dobson said. "Apparently (the plane) was coming over here to visit someone. No one knows who he was going to visit."

Jackie Alberico and her friends at the nearby Pine Lakes Community pool thought the plane was doing tricks when they spotted its jerky, spiraling movement. The plane landed close to her in-laws' Lake Fairways home, where she is visiting.

"I had no idea it was this close until I saw it," she said, shaking and crying.

Jim Martin also was at the Pine Lakes pool when he saw the plane plummet. He said when the plane flew over, it sounded quieter than when both engines are working, but it was flying on a level. As a former Ohio firefighter, he hurried to the scene.

"I was surprised there wasn't an explosion," he said. "It happens every day. Today it just happened here."

Volunteers with the American Red Cross of Lee County brought food and beverages for the sheriff's deputies, firefighters and crime scene technicians. Sharon Arnold, Red Cross disaster public affairs chairwoman, said they provided mental health professionals for residents as well as for victims of the crash and their families.


Naples Daily News