Private jet crashes onto Florida interstate, killing two

Smoke and fire fills the air after an airplane crashed on Interstate 75,  Friday, Feb. 10, 2024 near Naples, Fla.  Federal authorities have launched an investigation to determine why the private jet tried to make an emergency landing on the Florida interstate, colliding with a vehicle and sparking a fiery crash that left two people dead. (Chris O'Conner via AP)
Smoke and fire fills the air after an airplane crashed on Interstate 75, Friday, Feb. 10, 2024 near Naples, Fla. Federal authorities have launched an investigation to determine why the private jet tried to make an emergency landing on the Florida interstate, colliding with a vehicle and sparking a fiery crash that left two people dead. (Chris O'Conner via AP)

A pilot and co-pilot were identified as the two killed in a fiery plane crash on a Florida highway, law enforcement officials said Saturday afternoon.

The Collier County Sheriff's Office identified Edward Daniel Murphy, a 50-year-old pilot, and co-pilot Ian Frederick Hofmann, 65, as the deceased. The three survivors were crew member Sydney Ann Bosmans, 23, and passengers Aaron Baker, 35, and Audra Green, 23, both of Columbus, Ohio. The three were taken to a local hospital for injuries. Their conditions are unknown.

Moments before the private jet slammed into a Florida highway, the pilot had calmly told an airport controller that the aircraft "was not going to make the runway" because it had lost both engines.

The jet, with five people aboard, was bound for the airport in Naples when it tried to make an emergency landing Friday afternoon on Interstate 75. But witnesses say it collided with a vehicle -- the wing of the plane dragging a car before slamming into a wall. An explosion followed, with flames and black smoke rising from the scene.

Federal authorities have launched an investigation into the crash near Naples, just north of where the interstate heads east toward Fort Lauderdale along what is known as Alligator Alley.

The plane had taken off about 1 p.m from an airport at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. It was scheduled to land in Naples around the time of the crash, Naples Airport Authority spokesperson Robin King said, when pilot contacted the tower requesting an emergency landing.

"Got that. Emergency. Clear to land. Runway. Two. Three," the air traffic controller responded to the pilot, in audio obtained by the Associated Press.

"We're clear to land, but we're not gonna make the runway. We've lost both engines," the pilot calmly replied.

The tower lost contact, and then airport workers saw the smoke from the interstate just a few miles away, King said.

King said they sent fire trucks with special foam to the scene, and three of the five people on board were taken from the wreckage alive.

Brianna Walker saw the wing of the plane drag the car in front of hers and slam into the wall.

"It's seconds that separated us from the car in front of us," she said. "The wing pulverized this one car."

Walker and her friend spotted the plane moments before it hit the highway, allowing her friend to pull over before the crash.

"The plane was over our heads by inches," she said. "It took a hard right and skid across the highway."

According to the FlightAware aircraft tracker, the plane was operated by Hop-a-Jet Worldwide Charter based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The aircraft had been scheduled to fly back to Fort Lauderdale on Friday afternoon.

Hop-a-Jet said Friday night it had "received confirmed reports of an accident involving one of our leased aircraft near Naples" and would send a team to the crash site, the Naples Daily News reported.

"Our immediate concern is for the well-being of our passengers, crew members, and their families," the statement said. It didn't contain details of the crash.

A spokesperson for Ohio State University said the aircraft is not affiliated with the university, and they had no further information about it.

Federal authorities said a preliminary report about the cause of the crash can be expected in 30 days.

photo Smoke and fire fills the air after an airplane crashed on Interstate 75, Friday, Feb. 10, 2024 near Naples, Fla. Federal authorities have launched an investigation to determine why the private jet tried to make an emergency landing on the Florida interstate, colliding with a vehicle and sparking a fiery crash that left two people dead. (Chris O'Conner via AP)
photo Emergency officials work the scene of a small plane crash on Interstate 75 in Naples, Fla., near Exit 105, Friday, Feb. 9, 2024. Two people were confirmed dead. (Andrew West/The News-Press via AP)
photo Emergency officials work the scene of a small plane crash on Interstate 75 in Naples, Fla., near Exit 105, Friday, Feb. 9, 2024. Two people were confirmed dead. (Andrew West/The News-Press via AP)
photo In this image provided by the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Highway Patrol troopers are on the scene of a small airplane landing on southbound Interstate 75 in Naples, Fla., Friday, Feb. 9, 2024. The plane collided with a vehicle as it made the emergency landing. (Florida DOT/The News-Press via AP)
photo In this image provided by the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Highway Patrol troopers are on the scene of a small airplane landing on southbound Interstate 75 in Naples, Fla., Friday, Feb. 9, 2024. The plane collided with a vehicle as it made the emergency landing. (Florida DOT/The News-Press via AP)