Kemper Aviation Observation Flight
Location: Okeechobee County, Florida
Date: March 13, 2008
Aircraft: Cessna Skyhawk 172S
At approximately 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 13, 2008, a Cessna Skyhawk 172, flown by the co-owner of the Lantana, Florida-based Kemper Aviation flight school, crashed in a field near the Okeechobee and Martin County border. The crash killed the pilot and all three passengers.
Jeff Rozelle, the pilot and co-owner of Kemper Aviation, took off from the Lantana airport at approximately 7:00 a.m. carrying two passengers affiliated with Florida Atlantic University (FAU). The single engine plane made a stop at the Okeechobee airport and picked up a third passenger, also affiliated with FAU. The three gentlemen were participating in one of the final observation flights of a three-year study on migratory wading birds. Observation flights such as this one often fly at lower altitudes, at times only a few hundred feet above the ground.
According to Martin County Sheriff Robert Crowder, witnesses stated that they saw the single engine Cessna flying "low and slow" before the plane's nose dropped. Witness reported that the pilot attempted to rev the engine and was trying to pull the plane out, but was too low and the aircraft crashed into the ground at full throttle. Witnesses rushed to the crash site and attempted to put out the engine fire which had erupted.
This fatal accident is the third of its kind for Kemper Aviation since fall of 2007. On October 27, 2007, a pilot and two students experienced engine trouble in a Piper Archer aricraft and crashed near Boynton Beach killing two of the individuals on board. On December 8, 2007, a Kemper student pilot collided with another aircraft over the Everglades, killing both men. After these two crashes involving the flight school in late 2007, the FAA began an investigation of the maintenance and operation of Kemper Aviation. Though Kemper Aviation was the subject of an ongoing investigation, the FAA had not stopped company operations. This decision appears to have been a fatal one.
In January 2008, Motley Rice attorney Mary Schiavo commented on the 2007 incidents involving Kemper Aviation and the FAA investigation of the flight school. In an article published in the Palm Beach Post, Schiavo, the former Inspector General of the Department of Transportation, stated that "[The FAA] could have shut their doors in a heartbeat."
The Motley Rice aviation team is researching this accident and any legal responsibility that Kemper Aviation, Cessna and Lycoming Engines have to the families of the victims of this disaster. If you or someone you know is interested in seeking legal recourse due to wrongful death as a result of this accident, please contact Motley Rice aviation attorney Mary Schiavo by email or call +1 800.868.6456.