Pine Island plane crash kills two

PINE ISLAND -- Federal investigators are trying to determine what caused an experimental aircraft to crash on takeoff, killing two men.

The two-seat, Sky Ranger ultralight plane crashed moments after takeoff Thursday at Pine Island Airport. The Lee County Sheriff's Office identified the two men killed as pilot Robin Furdell, 50, of North Fort Myers and passenger Olney Flaherty, 55, of Fort Myers. Flaherty also owned the plane.

The plane took off east on the grass airstrip shortly after 7 p.m., but the two-seat engine quit when the aircraft reached an altitude of about 500 feet, the sheriff's office said.

Eyewitnesses told the sheriff's office the plane tried to turn back west toward the runway, then nose-dived into the ground about 100 yards east of the strip in a field of palmetto and heavy brush. The two men on the plane were working on it most of the day, sheriff's officials said.

Matlacha Pine Island Fire Chief Dave Bradley said the plane remained mostly intact and did not catch fire. Firefighters pinched the fuel line and were ready to use fire extinguishers as a precaution, Bradley said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.

Associated Press