Victim identified in deadly southeast Lee County plane crash

A 68-year-old man was identified as the victim of a deadly plane crash that happened Monday in southeast Lee County, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said.

Daniel Bernath was flying a Van’s Aircraft RV-12 that crashed north of Bonita Beach Road Southeast. The plane took off from Page Field and issued a mayday call only 15 minutes into the flight.

Air traffic audio captured the pilot arguing with the ground controller, requesting to fly 8,000 feet to the Everglades City Airport. Experts say the pilot should’ve known to fly lower.

“He has requested 8,000 feet for a cruising altitude which is way to high for that short of a distance also it is the wrong altitude for that direction of flight,” said Robert Katz, commercial pilot and certified flight instructor.

Katz believes the audio details moments of confusion that could’ve led to the fatal crash.

Model of Van’s Aircraft RV-12

Rescue crews had to use intense machinery to access the wreckage where at least one person was killed. The identity of the victim has not yet been released pending next-of-kin notification.

Small plane crashes near Bonita Beach Road, one dead

John Hofbauer recalls the moments after a plane crashed into the woods.

“There was no explosion, there was no smoke coming out of the scene,” Hofbauer said.

Hofbauer says employees at the golf course used a machete to help investigators get to the scene.

Denise Wessman witnessed debris scattering just a few hundred feet away.

“All of a sudden I just saw pieces of debris right above the tree line and heard crackling of branches,” Wessman said.

Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the plane to go down.

“There’s no good end to that and I feel bad certainly for the individual of the family involved,” Hofbauer said.

WINK News reporter Kelsey Kushner has more details:

Reporter:Andrea Henderson