Nassau County

Plane crashes in St. Marys River on Florida-Georgia border, kills student and instructor

June 22

NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. — Friends and family held a vigil for Fernandina Beach teenager Alexis George who was tragically killed when she and her flight instructor crashed into the St. Marys River.

The 18-year-old was a standout. Her friends told us Alexis wanted to be a pilot and had just received a full scholarship to Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.

June 19

A source confirmed that the plane will be pulled from the water and examined by an investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board on Saturday.

Action News Jax’s Jessica Barreto spoke with Captain Wayne Ziskal, an experienced airline pilot, who said the plane model is popular.

“The model’s been around long enough that I trained in it as a student pilot,” Ziskal said.

In general, Ziskal said the aircraft is safe and perfect for training. He once experienced engine failure while flying the same model but he said it was due to bad maintenance.

“That was a very isolated incident,” Ziskal said. “That was not the fault of the airplane at all.”

Ziskal said the aircraft does not have a flight data recorder or black box and that is what the NTSB will be looking at.

“Request radar data, weather information, air traffic control communication, the maintenance records of the airplane and the pilot’s medical history,” said an NTSB spokesperson.

After the NTSB conducts a full investigation, a preliminary report with facts will be released before the cause is determined. This usually takes 6 to 9 months.

Ziskal said his thoughts go out to the families of 18-year-old Alexis George and the 66-year-old flight instructor.

“It is the most wonderful thing to learn how to fly and I’m very sad about this.”

JUNE 18, 2021

Two bodies have been recovered from a plane crash late Friday morning in the St. Marys River, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Action News Jax confirmed the two victims as an 18-year-old student and her flight instructor.

Friends have identified the student as Alexis George who had just graduated from Fernandina Beach High School.

A source tells Action News Jax the aircraft is a fixed wing Cessna with an N-number of N1300Q. Federal Aviation Administration records show that plane is registered to A-Cent Aviation, a flight school in Jacksonville.

Action News Jax’s Ben Becker has reached out to the school and received the following statement:

“We are deeply stunned and saddened by yesterday’s tragic event. A-Cent Aviation is a family, and we are devastated by this terrible event. Our hearts go out to the families of the flight instructor and student.

We want the families of the instructor and student to know that we are committed to finding out what happened, and will be here for them during this extremely difficult time.

A-Cent Aviation has a strong record of professional aircraft maintenance, successful safety inspections from the FAA, pilot training, and overall flight safety.

We promote a culture of safety first within our company. Our flight instructors are trained within our company to instill the values of safety first to each and every student.

We are cooperating fully with the local authorities, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the National Transportation and Safety Board, as we want to get to the root cause of this terrible event.

Again, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the flight instructor and student pilot for the loss to their families and to our flight school family.”

Two people were on board the plane, according to the plane’s owner. A source tells Action News Jax’s Ben Becker that the two on board were an instructor and an 18-year old student pilot.

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The crash happened on the Florida side of the river, which is the border between Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.

Nassau County Sheriff’s Office divers are out working to locate the plane, which is submerged.

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The Federal Aviation Administration released the following statement on the crash:

“A single-engine Cessna 150 crashed into the St. Marys River near Nassau County, Fla., around 11:55 a.m. local time. The plane departed from Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport. Two people were aboard. The FAA will release the tail number of the aircraft after investigators verify it at the accident site. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. Neither agency identifies people involved in aircraft accidents.”

Crews responding to plane down in the St. Marys River on June 18, 2021 (Viewer photo)

Action News Jax spoke with a witness via Facebook Messenger who was waiting for the Cumberland Island ferry when the crash happened. Here’s what she saw:

“It was a small plane. Less than a six seater. It had been flying around the whole time we were there loading our gear onto the ferry. I had looked down but hear the plane full throttle for 6-8 seconds and then it made a pop sound when it hit the water. My boyfriend said he looked up when he heard the throttle sounds different and it went straight nose down, quickly and landed nose down. I looked up when I heard the pop and only the tail was out of the water at the time. Within 30-45 seconds the tail was submerged as well. A group on a boat immediately went out to try and find it. About 20 minutes later law enforcement had arrived and were responding. They are still there. We were watching and no person appeared to surface however there was some debris.”

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FHP is the lead on the investigation at this point and the National Transportation and Safety Board is on the way.