Friday, September 18, 2020

Van's RV-9A, N4889R: Fatal accident occurred September 13, 2020 in Steinhatchee, Taylor County, Florida

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.

The National Transportation Safety Board did not travel to the scene of this accident.

Additional Participating Entity:
Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; Tampa, Florida

Location: Steinhatchee, FL
Accident Number: ERA20LA315
Date & Time: September 13, 2020, 12:15 Local 
Registration: N4889R
Aircraft: Vans RV9
Injuries: 2 Fatal
Flight Conducted Under: Part 91: General aviation - Personal

On September 13, 2020, about 1215 eastern daylight time, a Van’s RV-9A, N4889R, was destroyed when it was involved in an accident near Steinhatchee, Florida. The pilot and a pilot-rated passenger were presumed to be fatally injured. The airplane was operated as a Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91 personal flight.

The flight departed Jack Edwards Airport, Gulf Shores (JKA), Florida about 0903 central daylight time under an instrument flight rules flight plan with the destination of Ocala International Airport (OCF), Ocala, Florida. During the cruise portion of the flight, the pilot requested to divert to Cross City Airport (CTY), Cross City, Florida due to weather. He was cleared for the RNAV-A approach to CTY. About 25 miles west-northwest of CTY, the airplane turned left into an area of precipitation. Radar and radio contact was lost, and a search was initiated for the airplane.

The wreckage was located in shallow water, about 1 mile offshore, and about 22 miles west-northwest of CTY. Both wings were found separated from the fuselage and the empennage was fragmented. At the time of this report, the airplane’s occupants had not been located.

The wreckage was retained for further examination.

Aircraft and Owner/Operator Information

Aircraft Make: Vans Registration: N4889R
Model/Series: RV9 A Aircraft Category: Airplane
Amateur Built: Yes
Operator: On file
Operating Certificate(s) Held: None
Operator Designator Code:

Meteorological Information and Flight Plan

Conditions at Accident Site: IMC 
Condition of Light: Day
Observation Facility, Elevation: CTY,42 ft msl
Observation Time: 12:35 Local
Distance from Accident Site: 22 Nautical Miles 
Temperature/Dew Point: 31°C /24°C
Lowest Cloud Condition: Scattered / 3000 ft AGL
Wind Speed/Gusts, Direction: 12 knots / 19 knots, 120°
Lowest Ceiling:
Visibility: 10 miles
Altimeter Setting: 29.91 inches Hg 
Type of Flight Plan Filed: IFR
Departure Point: Gulf Shores, AL (JKA) 
Destination: Cross City, FL (CTY)

Wreckage and Impact Information

Crew Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Damage: Destroyed
Passenger Injuries: 1 Fatal 
Aircraft Fire: None
Ground Injuries: 
Aircraft Explosion: None
Total Injuries: 2 Fatal 
Latitude, Longitude: 29.7,-83.51667 (est)

Those who may have information that might be relevant to the National Transportation Safety Board investigation may contact them by email, and any friends and family who want to contact investigators about the accident should email

Taylor County Sheriff's Office Inv. Bryan Hayden swims back to the boat with a piece of the Van's RV-9A he recovered diving in the murky and choppy Gulf waters this week. 

TCSO Sheriff Wayne Padgett looks on as Inv. Bryan Hayden (center) and volunteer Jody DeVane work to winch a section of landing gear from the Van's RV-9A that crashed off the Taylor County coast here Sunday aboard a boat borrowed from Benjye Tuten.

Two men remain missing after a single-engine plane crash on Sunday, despite a multi-agency search by local law enforcement officials and private volunteers who continue to battle blustering winds and storm-tossed waves.

While most of the amateur-built Van’s Aircraft RV-9 had been recovered as of press time on Thursday, the occupants — Haram Patrick Yu of Tampa and Roman Scarfo of Sarasota — have not yet been located.

The Taylor County Sheriff's Office (TCSO) began the search for Yu and Scarfo on Sunday, September 13th, after being contacted by the Federal Aviation Administration, who reported they lost radar contact with the plane.  

Federal Aviation Administration officials reported a Van's RV-9A experimental aircraft descended rapidly and disappeared from radar off Taylor County coast during a flight from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Ocala International Airport.

"We met a fisherman at Sea Hag and got his statement," TCSO Undersheriff Marty Tompkins said.  "He said he heard what sounded like an airboat or airplane engine falling out of the sky and saw something dropping in the water like a waterspout."

Tompkins said the charter captain took deputies back to the area he was fishing along with Sea Tow and other volunteers.

"That is where we located the landing gear sticking out of the water,"  Tompkins said.  "We have had divers in the water every day since.  Unfortunately, the weather has been horrible.  It is white-capping in the Steinhatchee River.  Divers have had zero visibility Wednesday and Thursday, and they are basically feeling along the bottom."

The search has proven difficult, as rain bands and wind gusts spinning off of Hurricane Sally battered local search teams, many of whom took to the tumultuous Gulf in small skiffs, airboats, and larger boats owned by volunteers.

"Deteriorating weather conditions have had a negative effect on the search," TCSI Capt Gina Deeson said.

The Federal Aviation Administration stated the National Transportation Safety Board is in charge of the investigation, however National Transportation Safety Board is not participating in the search efforts due to COVID-related travel restrictions, according to local authorities.

"We are collecting everything we can, from Global Positioning System coordinates to recovered pieces of the plane.  The data collected by TCSO and volunteer search teams will be sent to the National Transportation Safety Board, who will then conduct an investigation based on what we have collected," TCSO Capt. Gina Deeson said.

On Thursday, TCSO personnel were still leading a search in the murky and choppy waters just off the Dallus Creek. Volunteers and other agencies were providing aerial assistance. 

"TCSO appreciates the assistance provided by the Florida Forest Service, Dixie County Sheriff's Office, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Madison County Sheriff's Office, Perry Police Department, Georgia - Florida Aviation Search Team and other private individuals, such as Mike Williams, Jody Devane, Benjye Tuten and Posada Aviation," Deeson said in a statement to Perry Newspapers.

After five (5) days without any sign of the missing pilot and co-pilot, the search efforts are at risk of being called off.  

"The Sheriff said unless we find something substantial between now and then, we will end our search at 5 p.m. tomorrow (Friday)," Tompkins added. 

Roman Scarfo

Haram Patrick Yu

SARASOTA COUNTY, Florida (WFLA) – Yeni Montoya is doing her best to stay positive as crews 250 miles away from Sarasota search for her husband-to-be, Roman Scarfo.

The 42-year-old vanished after his Van's RV-9A experimental aircraft crashed off the coast of Florida Sunday morning. Montoya is seven months pregnant with their first child.

Scarfo and another man departed from Jack Edwards National Airport in Gulf Shores, Alabama just after nine a.m. on Sunday. They were scheduled to land in Ocala, but diverted to Cross City mid-flight.

“The weather was bad,” said Montoya.”They were flying back and once they got close to Cross City, Florida, they realized they needed to land and they contacted the Cross City airport tower, and the tower lost signal with them right as they were over the water on the Gulf of Mexico shore,” she continued.

Montoya tells 8 Your Side, Scarfo was wrapping up requirements for his pilot’s license, something he’s dreamed of his entire life.

“He always told me his passion was to be a pilot, to finish his pilot license and on his time off, just take me flying and just fly and just have fun like that. That was what made him happy,” said Montoya.

Taylor County Sheriff Wayne Padgett tells 8 On Your Side crews with the sheriff’s office, the local fire department, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have been searching around the clock for any signs of the two men on board the plane. The plane’s fuselage was pulled from the Gulf of Mexico Tuesday afternoon.

Multiple volunteers joined in on the search efforts including a pilot from Tampa. Nicolas Posada flew up Monday to help with the search efforts. He knows both victims.

“Family members want to know more than just there are pieces of aircraft in the water. To be able to achieve that, we need more help,” said Posada.

The local pilot says more air power would be helpful, especially helicopters. “All day Monday, there was nothing but volunteers in the afternoon after 11 a.m. Aircrafts will have to make circles, there is not a single helicopter that we have seen around here. It surprises me because we are supposed to see the Coast Guard, first responders, emergency responders out here instead of volunteers first and then officials showing up later two or three days later,” said the pilot.

8 On Your Side reached out to the FAA and NTSB regarding the crash. Officials with the NTSB said, ‘the NTSB is investigating this accident. Currently, the wreckage recovery is ongoing’.

The FAA sent 8 On Your Side this statement:

Local authorities notified the FAA yesterday that they discovered the wreckage of a Van’s RV-9 in the Tide Swamp Wildlife Management Area in Taylor County, Fla. Two people were aboard. The FAA issued an Alert Notice (ALNOT) on September 13 to public safety agencies, pilots and airports to alert them about the missing aircraft. The flight departed Jack Edwards Airport in Gulf Shores, Ala., and was headed to Ocala International Airport in Florida. The FAA and NTSB will investigate. Neither agency identifies people involved in aircraft accidents. The FAA will release the aircraft tail number once investigators verify it at the scene. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and all updates.

Montoya admits communication has been limited since the crash happened Sunday morning. Most of the information she received early on was from volunteers.

“I am hoping at this point that they find them. Any news…” she said with tears in her eyes. “I keep hoping for the best. I understand that we could hear anything bad, but I am hoping that they could find him finally with the help and give me some news,” she continued.

Montoya says she wants information and closure. “The main concern with my family is my pregnancy because they are trying to keep me as healthy as possible and they know that all of this stress and the more it elongates, the more my health deteriorates,” said the expectant mother.

“I want to say thank you to the crew that is helping. It is hard because we are not there, but I want to say thank you. Please keep searching and if you need help, if you are lacking boats, if you are lacking more help from the air, please ask for it. If we can send more volunteers, more friends, and they need to allow it, please let them come and help so we can get some closure,” said Montoya.


  1. Looks like the accident was on return after getting stuck in the Mobile area for a couple of days, during which time the hurricane passed thru.

    FlightAware history shows the plane was flown to Fairhope, Alabama on the 10th, started back after less than two hours there, but did a reversal back to Gulf Shores instead of continuing on home.

    The flight activity for the 10th resembles a practice run for cross country solo. Probably had made plans to do it in advance, did not postpone for Sally being near. Another unfortunate case of expecting to work around or thread through the weather.

    Fairhope WX history 10 September does not show hurricane influence:


  2. “He ( Roman Scarfo) always told me his passion was to be a pilot, to finish his pilot license and on his time off, ....” said Montoya.

    Airman opted-out of releasing address
    Medical Information:
    Medical Class: First Medical Date: 7/2018
    BasicMed Course Date: None BasicMed CMEC Date: None
    Certificates Description
    Certificate: STUDENT PILOT
    Date of Issue: 12/1/2018

    1. But you don't know who was flying this aircraft.

    2. Does it matter who was flying? It is a terrible accident.

    ZEPHYRHILLS FL 33540-7343
    County: PASCO
    Country: USA
    Medical Information:
    Medical Class: Third Medical Date: 3/2019
    BasicMed Course Date: None BasicMed CMEC Date: None

    Certificates Description
    Certificate: COMMERCIAL PILOT
    Date of Issue: 3/4/2020