|NTSB releases preliminary report on I-95 plane crash
The first sign of trouble occurred shortly after takeoff, report indicates
Derek Simmonsen staff writer
October 2, 2003 - ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- A seaplane that crashed near
Interstate 95 last week experienced engine trouble soon after takeoff,
according to a preliminary report.
Two passengers were killed and the pilot injured when the twin-engine
Grumman Albatross landed in a bee farm north of Indrio Road last Thursday
afternoon during a test flight. It took off from the St. Lucie County
International Airport and made an emergency landing about three miles
The first sign of trouble occurred shortly after takeoff, as the right
engine's revolutions per minute began to fluctuate, according to the
National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report. Information in
the report released Wednesday draws from an interview with pilot John W.
Russell, the sole survivor of the crash.
When the plane reached an altitude of about 500 feet, the right
engine warning light came on and Russell completed an emergency shutdown
on the engine, the report states. He alerted the airport's control tower
and told controllers of the plane's problems and that he planned to land
on one of the airport runways.
As the plane continued parallel to the runway, the left engine's
revolutions per minute also began to decrease, the report states. The
engine slowed and Russell was not able to steer the plane toward the
He again contacted the tower and said he planned to land on a
different runway, the report states. The plane began losing altitude at
"The pilot prepared to make an off-airport emergency landing in
a field," the report states. "The airplane stalled and collided
with the trees as the pilot maneuvered for the emergency landing."
Witnesses Blake Lynch and Kolton Kruger helped free Russell from the
plane amid a swarm of bees before rescue crews arrived, according to a
Sheriff's Office report.
Passengers and close friends -- Jon Anderson, 56, of Lakeland, and
Albert H. "Kip" Schaaf, 56, of Richmond, Calif. -- died from
injuries they received in the crash. Schaaf was pronounced dead at the
scene and Anderson died from his injuries overnight at Holmes Regional
Medical Center in Melbourne.
Russell, 53, no address given, was treated and released from
Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute. According to his
Web site, Russell is a retired British Airways pilot who has been trained
in flying the seaplane.
The NTSB is continuing to investigate the accident and is working on
moving the plane to an undisclosed location for further study, said Eric
Alleyne, an NTSB air safety investigator. A crew from Air & Sea Crash
Recovery, of Fort Lauderdale, was at the crash site Wednesday assisting
"I'll be doing a full examination of the airplane,"
Alleyne said. "I'll look at the flight controls, look over all of the
maintenance records, the pilot's records."
A final report on the crash will likely be complete in six months to
a year, he said. Getting equipment back to the site, located down a dirt
road in the woods off Indrio Road, was initially difficult, Alleyne said.
"It was just a matter of getting certain types of equipment
back there," he said. He expected the plane to be moved within the
next week, he said.
A memorial service was held Monday in Lakeland for Anderson. A
service for Schaaf will likely take place next week, according to his
brother, Tim Schaaf.
Schaaf, better known as Kip to family and friends, met Anderson when
both were cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Anderson ran
his own law firm in Lakeland and Schaaf was a commercial airline pilot for
Southwest Airlines and a flight instructor.
Schaaf volunteered his time with Angel Flight, a program that
transports sick patients who could not otherwise afford to fly.
"His great passion had always been flying," Tim Schaaf
said. "He had friends all over the world."
He had been interested in the Grumman Albatross for at least the
past six months and was excited about taking time off from work to fly the
plane, Schaaf said. Anderson's family declined to comment on the crash.