Pilot who crashed into Florida mobile home park couldn't locate airport: NTSB report

The pilot told air traffic control he couldn't locate the airport.

March 5, 2024, 11:09 PM

New details have emerged in the February small plane crash at a Clearwater, Florida, mobile home park that left three dead.

Two people at Clearwater Air Park told the Federal Aviation Administration that the pilot of the Beech 35 plane said he could not find the airport, according to the preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board released on Tuesday. He "asked them to turn on the runway lights, which were already on from an airplane that had just landed," the report said.

The pilot, Jemin Patel, 54, of Melbourne Beach, asked air traffic control in another communication to turn the runway lights on, the report said. Although the air traffic controllers changed the lighting to its "highest intensity," per the report, the pilot was unable to locate the airport.

A small plane crashed into a mobile home park in Clearwater, Florida, on Feb. 1, 2024.
Clearwater Fire & Rescue Department

The pilot then announced he had a "fire," the officials said, according to the NTSB preliminary report. A few minutes later, he said he was going to Albert Whitted airport since he couldn't find CLW, the report said.

The Clearwater air traffic control asked the pilot to turn 180 degrees and maintain his altitude, but he reportedly said he was "losing engine," according to the report. The controller asked the pilot if he could see the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport, which was three miles ahead, but no further communications came through from the aircraft.

Two witnesses of the incident -- a pilot, and a passenger in a car -- both reported seeing a bright light before the plane crashed. The passenger described it as a "fireball," according to the report. The nearby pilot then saw the plane crash.

As ABC News previously reported, the small plane crashed into a mobile home in Clearwater, Florida, on Feb. 1. The pilot and two people who were in one of the mobile homes hit by the plane died. Authorities later confirmed the victims from the home were Martha Perry, 86, and Mary Ellen Pender, 54. Perry lived in the home and Pender was visiting, the city previously said. Another person suffered minor injuries.

A total of four homes were engulfed in fire following the crash, but firefighters quickly doused the flames, officials said at the time.

The NTSB is continuing to review videos from commercial businesses that recorded the incident. The NTSB said wreckage from the scene was collected for further examination.

ABC News' Clara McMichael contributed to this report.