Fredericksburg man among 4 killed in plane collision over Florida lake

Authorities are investigating why the two planes collided over Lake Hartridge

A Central Texas man was killed during a plane crash in central Florida, sheriff’s officials said.

Louis C. Defazio, 78, of Fredericksburg was onboard a Piper J-3 Cub seaplane that collided with a Cherokee Piper 161 fixed-wing plane around 2 p.m. Tuesday over Lake Hartridge near Winter Haven Regional Airport, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.

Numerous rescue workers responded to the scene, where one of the planes was submerged under about 21 feet of water, while the other was partially submerged. They pulled four bodies from the planes, the sheriff said.

Faith Irene Bake, 24, a pilot/flight instructor with Sunrise Aviation, and Zachary Jean Mace, 19, a student at Polk State College, were aboard the fixed-wing plane, which was operated by Sunrise Aviation in Ormond Beach on behalf of Polk State College, Judd said. Both were from Winter Haven.

Randall Elbert Crawford, 67, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and Defazio were aboard the seaplane, which was operated by Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base in Winter Haven.

“All of a sudden it was a giant boom,” Caridad Fernandez, who lives along the lake, told WESH-TV. “It literally sounded like when a rocket takes off and hits the atmosphere.”

Fernandez said she and many of her neighbors in the community about 40 miles southwest of Orlando ran outside.

“We pretty much saw everything hit the water,” Fernandez said.

Both planes were expected to be removed later Wednesday from the lake, the sheriff said.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will investigate what caused the two planes to collide.

“Please keep the families in your prayers during this difficult and stressful time,” Judd said.

About the Authors:

Rebecca Salinas has worked in digital news for more than 10 years and joined KSAT in 2019. She reports on a variety of topics for KSAT 12 News.