Deputies: Flight student, instructor die in small plane crash in Volusia

Wing fell off plane before crash, witnesses say

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – An Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University student pilot and an instructor were killed Wednesday when a small plane crashed near the Daytona Beach Flea and Farmers Market, officials with the Volusia County Sheriff's Office said.

The plane crashed at 9:54 a.m. near 1496 Tomoka Farms Road, deputies said. Witnesses said the plane lost a wing before crashing south of West International Speedway Boulevard.

"The wing fell off some 150 to 200 yards away from where the plane finally rests in this field behind us," said Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood while standing in front of the wreckage Wednesday.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University officials said the two on board were a student pilot and an instructor.

"It is with profound sadness that I must inform you of an aircraft accident today that resulted in the loss of one of our student pilots as well as a passenger who was a designated pilot examiner with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration," Dr. P. Barry Butler, ERA president, said in a statement.

The two people were the only ones on board the Piper PA-28 Cherokee aircraft. They have not been identified.

National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration officials arrived Thursday to investigate the crash. Embry-Riddle officials said they are cooperating with authorities.

The pair onboard was practicing touch-and-go maneuvers, a common practice for flight instructors and students that is meant to give students a better feel for the plane during takeoff and landing, NTSB officials said Thursday in a press conference.

Investigators said it is very unusual for a wing to separate from a plane and that there is no chance for a successful flight without both wings attached to aircraft.

The plane reportedly crashed after initial takeoff, officials said. 

"The witnesses that we're interviewing say this happened very quickly," Chitwood said. "No distress call was sent out as we can tell right now."

Authorities gathered statements from witnesses Wednesday before the NTSB arrived to carry out its investigation. 

NTSB officials said their focus Thursday is to document the scene. Investigators will fly a drone over the site of the crash at 11 a.m. and hope to bring the pieces of the plane to Jacksonville to conduct an investigation in a controlled environment.

Investigators said they are continuing to work with Embry Riddle officials to gather more details about potential issues with the aircraft. 

NTSB officials said a preliminary report will be released in seven to 10 days.

Check back for updates on this developing story.