Flight instructor killed, 7 miraculously survive after plane crashes into home

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LAKELAND, Fla (WFLA) – Authorities say a plane crashed into a home near the Winter Haven Airport on Saturday, killing a flight instructor. A pilot trainee and a girl inside of the home miraculously survived. Four others at the home were not hurt. 

The crash occurred at a residence on Idylridge Dr. at about 12:30 p.m.

According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, a United Consultants Twin Bee amphibious aircraft carrying James Wagner, 64, the flight instructor, and Timothy Sheehey, 33, the trainee, took off from the airport.

Just after take off, the plane lost power and crashed into the home, trapping and pinning a 17-year-old girl who was inside the bedroom. 

“Their goal today was simulated engine failure training. Now, let me underscore, we do not know at this time at the investigation whether or not they were simulating an engine failure. We do not know if this is a training exercise gone bad,” said Judd. 

Wagner suffered fatal injuries and died at the scene. Sheehy walked away from the crash with only minor injuries, authorities said. 

The girl’s brother was in the next room, their mother was taking a shower and three other children, ages 2, 11, and 15 were playing in the driveway when the crash occurred. They were not hurt. 

Authorities said the girl’s brother ran into her bedroom and tried to free his sister from the crash, but was unable to. 

Police and firefighters arrived at the scene minutes later and were able to extract her from a wall and get her out through a window. She was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Judd said he does not know when she or Mr. Sheehy will be released from the hospital. 

“As tragic as this was for Mr. Wagner, and it was tragic, it was a blessing today that we didn’t have an entire family wiped out.” 

Further information was not immediately available. 

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