Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Piper PA-23-250 Aztec C, N5894Y: Fatal accident occurred March 08, 2019 in Pahokee, Palm Beach County, Florida

License of pilot in Lake Okeechobee plane crash is questioned in two lawsuits

The plane was carrying the pilot and four attorneys to Palm Beach Gardens from Tampa when it crashed March 8th.

Eduardo Mulet

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida - The widower of a woman killed when a small plane crashed into Lake Okeechobee on March 8th, killing all five aboard, has sued the estate of the pilot as well as various companies associated with him.

The suit is raising questions about whether pilot Eduardo Mulet was paid for flying four lawyers to Tampa. That would contradict what he said in his flight plan and also would place in him in violation of his flying certification. A family member has said the flight was a favor.

The suit filed on behalf of Heather Bridwell’s husband, Jason Bridwell, and the couple’s 9-year-old daughter, was filed Tuesday in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. It names the pilot’s estate and his flying business. It also names various companies that leased and maintained the plane.

Mulet told air-traffic controllers the Piper 23-250 Aztec C was having engine trouble moments before he tried to make an emergency landing at the Pahokee airport, the National Transportation Safety Board said March 19th in a preliminary report.

Killed were Mulet; Bridwell, 43, of Jupiter; Eric Peterson, 73, of Lighthouse Point; Matthew Fiorello, 36, of Palm Beach Gardens; and Edwin Mortell III, 54, of Stuart. The four lawyers worked for Peterson Bernard, a law firm based in Glen Ridge.

On July 17th, Edwin Mortell’s wife, Melissa Ann Mortell, filed suit in Palm Beach County, naming the the estate and some of the other entities as well, and making the same arguments.

The lawyers were flying from Tampa International Airport to North Palm Beach County Airport in suburban Palm Beach Gardens after a day trip to meet with prospective clients.

According to the March 19th National Transportation Safety Board report, Mulet declared an emergency and reported he was going to shut down his rough-running left engine and divert to the small county airport in Pahokee. Witnesses said the plane dropped at a 45-degree angle and slammed into shallow water about 400 yards from shore. Lawyers for Jason Bridwell said Wednesday the plane’s speed was estimated at 135 mph.

The new lawsuit claims Mulet was “incompetent and otherwise unqualified” to fly that type of plane and didn’t have enough experience piloting it. Lawyers also said they suspect the plane had mechanical problems that had caused previous engine failures and had not been adequately repaired.

Federal Aviation Administration records show Mulet’s last medical exam was in November 2017. According to Federal Aviation Administration rules, after a year with no new exam, the medical certificate of a pilot over 40 is downgraded to third class from first. Pilots are allowed to fly with a third-class certificate as long as they are not flying for hire.

Lawyers for Jason Bridwell say they are trying to pin that down.

“He was doing it as a friend, as a favor,” Marianne Rodriguez, Mulet’s niece, told The Palm Beach Post March 14th. “Flying was his passion.”

The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that it will “investigate further if it receives information or documentation that the flight was conducted for hire.”

The National Transportation Safety Board initial report says the original flight plan was listed as not-for-pay. A National Transportation Safety Board spokesman stressed that the facts in the preliminary report are just that, and a final report could take months.

At a news briefing Wednesday, lawyers showed animation produced by the FlightAware webpage showing the plane deviating at times from its flight path. As it left Tampa International, where small planes compete not just with commercial flights but also traffic from nearby MacDill Air Force Base, controllers told Mulet he needed to get back into his lane, according to audio provided by the lawyers.

Mulet’s widow, Casandra Mateo, could not be reached Wednesday for comment, and the attorney for Eduardo Mulet’s estate did not immediately return a call.

Original article ➤

The National Transportation Safety Board traveled to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entities:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Miramar, Florida
Piper Aircraft; Vero Beach, Florida
Lycoming Engines; Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Aviation Accident Preliminary Report - National Transportation Safety Board: 

Location: Pahokee, FL
Accident Number: WPR19FA093
Date & Time: 03/08/2019, 1526 EST
Registration: N5894Y
Aircraft: Piper PA23
Injuries: 5 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General Aviation - 

On March 8, 2019, about 1526 eastern standard time, a Piper PA 23-250 airplane, N5894Y, impacted a lake during an emergency landing at the Palm Beach County Glades Airport (PHK), Pahokee Florida. The commercial pilot and four passengers were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed. The airplane was registered to L-Holding LLC, and operated by the pilot as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident and the flight was operated on an instrument flight rules flight plan. The flight originated from the Tampa International Airport (TPA), Tampa, Florida about 1420 and was destined for North Palm Beach County General Aviation Airport (F45), West Palm Beach, Florida.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported that the pilot declared an emergency to air traffic control and reported a rough running left engine. The pilot further reported that he was going to shut down the left engine and divert to PHK. The controller cleared the pilot to land; the pilot's last transmission was when he reported the airport in sight.

Witnesses reported that their attention was drawn to the airplane when they observed it in a 45o nose and left-wing low rapid descent before it impacted the water.

The airplane was recovered to a secure location for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Piper
Registration: N5894Y
Model/Series: PA23 250
Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: No
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: Visual Conditions
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: F45, 22 ft msl
Observation Time: 1535 EST
Distance from Accident Site: 25 Nautical Miles
Temperature/Dew Point: 25°C / 15°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Few / 3400 ft agl
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 11 knots / , 110°
Lowest Ceiling: Broken / 6500 ft agl
Visibility:  10 Miles
Altimeter Setting: 30.14 inches Hg
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: Tampa, FL (TPA)
Destination: West Palm Beach, FL (F45) 

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 4 Fatal
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: N/A
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 5 Fatal
Latitude, Longitude: 26.790278, -80.692778 (est)


  1. The Aztec should have been perfectly capable of being flown on one engine ? why it would go in at 45 degrees does not sound quite right.
    The information here seems messy.

  2. an Aztec is just a Cub with two engines. Lose one the other one should keep you airborne if you know what you're doing. If not, then it stalls around 70 MPH, maybe 60MPH in ground effect. No reason to be doing 135MPH shortly before impact.

  3. That's right. No need to go that fast. The blue line should be way below that. I don't think it Vmc rolled. I think there was a big-time pilot error. It doesn't matter if if was hire or not; violation of certificate or not. They're all gone. Good luck collecting money. That's all you can do. Sad.

  4. Sounds like the pilot shut down the left (critical) engine and I can only assume feathered the propeller as well? The plane was then seen going down left wing and nose low, which sounds like a classic stall into the dead engine. The single engine safety speed on the C model is about 102 mph / 89 kts. One important thing to note is that on the Apache/Aztec, the hydraulic pump is on the left engine. There was an option for an auxiliary pump on the right engine but without it, the gear and flaps had to be hand pumped down. If the left engine was out and attention wasn't maintained while pumping down the gear, well that could be a problem, especially at low altitude. The Aztec is one of the most capable and forgiving twins out there.

  5. A couple of accidents in the books from pilots missing the fact that the hydraulic pump is on the left side. This guy was reported circling the airport before going in. Very likely he thought he had the field made put the gear selector down and nothing happened. Instead of just putting it on the runway gear up he starts circling while attempting to remember how to pump the gear down and looses control in the process. Hot day with a loaded airplane he most likely stalled while manuveering to pump the gear down for a no metal bent landing. Wrong choice.

  6. 7C ^^^^^

    Can't say that I 'enjoy' reading about accidents and certainly not the injuries or fatalities. Reminds me that I have been lucky.

    I try to learn and yes at times speculate. I have been involved in accident investigation ... In a minor way for a manufacturer.

    Yes, at times the speculation gets outside the norms of reasonable. Hopefully not mine.

    I do feel for those lost and those left behind. Yes, I do extend thoughts and prayers to those affected by the accidents.

    What does amaze me is the hate I see pop up from time to time. The inability of some to tolerate or just ignore something they don't agree with. Unfortunately we are seeing more and more hate in our society. I find it a sad trend.

    I hope your day improves.