Pilot and Passengers on ‘Sightseeing Tour’ Die in Crash

The Cessna 172 took off about noon Aug. 4 from North Perry Airport Runway 10R smoothly, but the plane’s speed soon rapidly dropped, and it smashed into the ground, a preliminary report released Thursday by the National Transportation Safety Board said.

Pilot Felipe Becerra Cardenas, 31, of Pembroke Pines, died, along with the woman in his front passenger seat, Shelby Thomas, 23, of Port Wentworth, Ga.

The backseat passenger, Jamal Hall, 25, also from Georgia, sustained serious injuries but survived.The preliminary report gives new details about the crash, though it does not say what may have contributed to or caused the crash.

It can take up to two years for the agency to complete investigations. Security cameras from two different angles showed the small plane rotate and lift off from the runway normally, the report said.

The plane ascended to about 150 feet above the ground and began a leftward turn down, until the left wing dropped and the plane crashed into the ground about 650 feet northeast of the end of the runway.

As the Cessna moved forward, preparing for takeoff, its speed increase to about 45 knots, or just under 52 mph. When the plane was about 50 feet above sea level, it was moving about 85 mph. The fastest speed recorded before it rapidly slowed and crashed reached just over 86 mph, according to the report.

The Cessna crashed with its nose pointing down, coming to a stop upright, the report said. The impact damaged the wings, and the body was “buckled and compressed through about 50% of the cockpit area with the most severe damage in the front seat area and floorboards.”

The engine compartment was also significantly damaged, with the engine displaced and the propeller pushed upward and slightly backward, displacing the instrument panel inside the cockpit, according to the report. The back tail part of the plane, called the empennage, was mostly undamaged.

Investigators drained about 24 gallons of fuel from the plane’s tanks, finding no water or trace amounts of debris. They confirmed there was flight control continuity, and all pistons, valves springs and pushrods were working normally, the report said.

The plane was within its weight limit at the time it crashed. The NTSB removed a piece of touchscreen navigating technology from the wreckage to be tested at its lab in Washington, D.C., according to the report, and will further investigate the pieces left from the crash.

Officials were on scene of a small plane that crashed at North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines on Friday, August 4, 2023. One person was killed two others were rushed to the hospital with injuries. (Carline Jean/South Florida Sun Sentinel)
Officials were on scene of a small plane that crashed at North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines on Friday, Aug. 4, 2023. The pilot and one passenger were killed while another passenger survived.

The Aug. 4 crash is one of four open NTSB investigations from North Perry Airport. The investigations include two crashes in May: On May 17 where the pilot of a single-engine Piper PA-25-235 died in a fiery crash near a shopping center in Hollywood and on May 25 where the pilot of a similar banner-towing plane crashed at the airport and survived.

The fourth open NTSB investigation is into an incident on July 27, 2022. A flight instructor and student crashed in a helicopter, and only the student suffered minor injuries, according to the NTSB’s preliminary report.

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