MIDDLEBURG, Fla. – Three people died Wednesday morning when a small plane went down off Violet Way at the end of Carter Spencer Road in Middleburg, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Clay County firefighters and deputies responded to the scene first and asked everyone to avoid the area.
Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook said the call came in Wednesday morning and deputies found the plane in the woods with the passengers dead at the scene.
“You can get there by walking through the woods. We didn’t need any extra equipment to get to it. There was a little path that led to where the wreckage was,” Cook said.
FHP took over the case and Clay County deputies will provide assistance with security and traffic detours, Cook said.
The case will be handed over to the NTSB when those investigators arrive. NTSB said a preliminary report can take up to 12 days and up to two years for a full investigation.
In a statement about the crash, the FAA said it was a single-engine Beechcraft Musketeer plane and that it went down shortly after departure in a wooded area near Spencer’s Airpark in Middleburg around 9 a.m.
“It would initially appear the airplane in the process of taking off either didn’t get airborne or did not achieve enough height to clear the trees at the end of the runway,” aviation expert Ed Booth told News4Jax.
Booth said it appears this plane was flying without logging a flight plan first, which FHP confirmed, which is not unusual for flights of smaller planes that are only flying locally.
“You are taught that when you’re operating off of grass it takes longer to accelerate primarily. You have to use some care on a soft surface like that. But this is a long enough runway for any properly loaded aircraft,” Booth said.
Booth said the plane was flying around 10 miles southwest of Cecil Field and could have requested guidance from the tower there. He also wonders whether there was too much weight in the small plane for takeoff.
“They will look at the airplane loading. Three people and some baggage can exceed the weight limits of many 4 passenger airplanes,” Booth said.
The FAA confirmed there were only three people aboard.
“The FAA will release the tail number of the aircraft after investigators verify it at the accident site. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide additional updates. Neither agency identifies people involved in aircraft accidents,” the FAA statement said.
Firefighters contained a small brush fire at the crash scene at 9:22 a.m.