Bodies of pilot, Chinese trainees recovered in Florida

Updated 2017-12-11 17:02:14 Xinhua

A U.S. investigator confirmed Sunday that the bodies of a local flight instructor and two Chinese trainees had been recovered after a plane crashed into a lake in the southern U.S. state of Florida Friday.

A Beechcraft King Air C-90 twin-engine plane crashed into Lake Harney, east just of Sanford, at about 11:15 a.m. Friday, said Joshua Cawthra, a senior aviation investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), at a press briefing Sunday afternoon.

Cawthra said all of the bodies of the victims aboard the plane had been recovered Saturday.

Investigators are in the process of recovering the wreckage of the crashed plane, which remains about 10 feet underwater, but the environment is not favorable.

"It's a fairly complex situation right now due to the underwater visibility," Cawthra said. "The divers that have been going under the water were reporting anywhere from five to eight inches of visibility."

"So with limited visibility, it hampers the ability to figure out where the rest of the airplane is," he said.

Search crews found the sunken plane Saturday, while using sonars to locate the rest of it. Cawthra said it's still unsure how to extract the plane, but suggesting using airbags.

The aircraft, if recovered, will be delivered to a secure facility in Jacksonville, over 200 km north of Lake Harney, said the investigator.

The pilot was identified as Kamalesh Naik, 56, of Sanford. His LinkedIn account lists his occupations as flight instructor and airline pilot. The two trainees were both identified as Chinese nationals in their 20s. They were students at an airline academy in Sanford.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said the aircraft was on its way to Orlando-Sanford International Airport before it crashed.

Cawthra said the investigation hasn't found any evidence to support that "there was any distress calls or any mayday radio."

The NTSB investigators are expected to work with the FAA, as well as manufacturers of the plane and its engine. Cawthra revealed that a preliminary report on the crash will be released on the NTSB website in five business days.

In the wake of the accident, the flying academy that owned the plane extended their condolences in a statement to the family and friends of the victims of the tragedy, promising to "cooperate fully with the FAA and the NTSB in the ongoing investigation."

The Chinese Consulate General in Houston told Xinhua that it reached out to the academy as soon as they heard about the incident. Officials from the consulate said the academy has suspended all on-flight training lessons and provided psychological counseling to other Chinese trainees.

It also sent a team to Sanford to meet NTSB investigators Sunday over the crash.

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