76-year-old dies in small plane crash in Mulberry

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The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed the pilot of a small plane is dead after crashing at an airstrip in Mulberry.

In a news release sent out by the agency at 11:33 a.m. on Tuesday, officials said the crash happened at South Lakeland Airstrip near State Road 60 and Coronet Road. The airport is an airstrip that’s about 4,000 feet long and is surrounded by neighborhoods.

A 76-year-old man was identified as the pilot. Officials said the plane was relatively new, and he had gotten it certified around October of last year. It was his second time flying the plane – the first being Saturday, March 30.

During a news conference Tuesday afternoon, investigators said witnesses heard the plane start to sputter soon after take-off. They said it then stalled, “crested over” and nosedived straight into the ground. The man died on impact, according to authorities.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said the man was already a pilot for 10 years with experience flying ultralight aircrafts.

“It’s a horrible tragedy and certainly not something any of us want to witness,” Judd said. “But we will do our part of the investigation.”

The NTSB and FAA are expected to be on-site to evaluate the crash later Tuesday evening.

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