SANFORD, Fla. -- A small plane carrying the husband of a
NASCAR executive crashed into a neighborhood Tuesday and engulfed
two houses in flames, killing both people aboard the aircraft and
three others on the ground.
The pilot had reported smoke in the cockpit and was trying to
make an emergency landing when the twin-engine plane went down in
suburban Orlando, officials said.
NASCAR confirmed that 54-year-old Dr. Bruce Kennedy, a Daytona
Beach plastic surgeon and husband of International Speedway Corp.
President Lesa France Kennedy, and NASCAR Aviation pilot Michael
Klemm, 56, were among the dead.
It was not entirely clear who was flying the plane. NASCAR said
it was Kennedy, but investigators said earlier Tuesday it was
Janise Joseph-Woodard, 24, and her 6-month-old son, Joseph
Woodard, were killed when the home they were in was hit by the
plane, police said. The young mother was a first-year law student
at Florida A&M University College of Law, school officials and a
former employer said.
Also killed was a 4-year-old girl, Gabriela Dechat, who was in a
second home. Her parents, Milagros Dechat, 33, and Peter Dechat,
36, were seriously injured and transported to Orlando Regional
Medical Center, police said.
A 10-year-old boy also in that home was transported to
Cincinnati Burn Center with burns over 80 percent to 90 percent of
his body, authorities said. The boy's name has not been released.
"It is clear that numerous families were affected by this terrible tragedy," NASCAR said in a statement. " Our deepest sympathies and prayers are with all of those who were involved in this tragic accident and their families."
Matt Minnetto, an investigator with the Sanford Fire Department,
said the plane itself was scattered in several pieces. The crash
spilled aviation fuel, contributing to the fire's spread.
A firefighter who responded to the blaze was also hurt trying to
reach the victims.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, Ryan Cooper, a firefighter/paramedic with Lake Mary Fire Department, was off duty but had his bunker gear with him when he ran into the Dechat's house.
Cooper, 30, was unable to go deep into the house without his breathing apparatus to see if he could find Gabriela Dechat, according to the Sentinel.
Instead, according to the paper, he ran into the second home but did not see Joseph-Woodard or her son.
The Sentinel was reporting that Cooper, who is married with two kids, suffered heat exhaustion. He was taken to Central Florida Regional Hospital and was in stable condition.
Eric Domnitz, who lives just down the street from the crash
site, hurried to the scene with a fire extinguisher and said he saw
some of the victims.
According to the Sentinel, Domnitz said Peter Dechat was falling to the ground, panicking and trying to get his daughter out of the home.
"He was saying it was all he could do," Domnitz told the paper. "He just tried. He tried."
"This is the kind of stuff you see on TV," Domnitz added. "I felt helpless."
The twin-engine Cessna 310 had been traveling from Daytona Beach
to Lakeland when the pilot reported smoke in the cockpit shortly
before the crash, said Kathleen Bergen with the Federal Aviation
The pilot was trying to land at the Orlando Sanford
International Airport when the plane went down about a mile or two
north of the airport, Bergen said.
The plane was registered to Competitor Liaison Bureau Inc. of
Daytona Beach. Online records from the Department of State Division
of Corporations show the company is registered under the name of
William C. France, the NASCAR chairman who died last month at age
74 at his Daytona Beach home.
Lesa France Kennedy, whose husband died in the plane crash, is
France's daughter. International Speedway Corp., of which she is
president, owns or operates 13 of the nation's major motorsports
In addition to losing her father and now her husband, Kennedy
recently fell off a bike and broke both her arms.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.