Four dead after planes crash midair and land in Florida lake

Four people have died after two planes collided midair and landed in a lake in central Florida.

One plane was found 21 feet below the surface of Lake Hartridge and another partly submerged after a collision at around 2pm in Winter Haven, Polk County Sheriff’s Office said.

First responders recovered the bodies of four people who were on board the planes.

Three of the victims were identified as 24-year-old Faith Irene Baker, 19-year-old Zachary Jean Mace, both of Winter Haven, and Randall Elbert Crawford, 67, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The fourth person, who was on board with Mr Crawford, is yet to be identified.

“It was an in-air collision, and both planes immediately went into the water,” said Polk Country Sherrif’s Office chief of staff Steve Lester.

It is not clear how the planes collided, but Mr Lester noted that the nearest airport, Winter Haven Regional Airport, is just off the lake’s shore.

The cause of the crash will be investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The two planes were operated by Sunrise Aviation on behalf of Polk State College and Jack Brown’s Seaplane Base in Winter Haven, the Sheriff’s Office said.

Faith Irene Baker was a pilot and flight instructor with Sunrise Aviation, and Zachary Jean Mace was a student at Polk State College.

“My heart goes out to the families and friends of those who were killed in today’s crash,” Polk County sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement.

Polk State College said it was mourning the deaths of Mace and Baker.

“Our Polk State College family is devastated by this tragedy,” president Angela Garcia Falconetti said in a statement from the school.