Flight School Bought Plane Weeks Prior To Crash That Killed Instructor, Student, NTSB Report Says

June 8, 2023

The single-engine plane that crashed in Lantana, killing a flight instructor and his student, was bought by the flight school three weeks before the fiery crash.

The Cessna 172 was in the air for less than a minute on May 26, a National Transportation Safety Board preliminary report released Wednesday said, before it crashed at 11:18 a.m. and was destroyed.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office identified Ana Isabela Diego Matias, 20, of Lantana, and Stanley Sands, 76, of Lake Worth, as the victims.

Ana Matias, the aunt of the 20-year-old aspiring pilot, wrote in a GoFundMe that her niece “died instantly” in the crash.

“She would always talk about being a pilot since she was a little girl. Every time she would look in the sky she would always tell her mom that she would accomplish being a pilot one day and make her proud,” Matias’ aunt wrote in the online fundraiser to help with funeral expenses and to return her to Guatemala, where she was born.

Matias’ aunt wrote that her niece kept her flight training a secret from many in the family and planned to surprise them once she officially became a pilot. She wanted to take her family to new places.

“She made people laugh and always had beautiful compliments for every person in her life,” her aunt wrote.

Sands earned his Airline Transport Pilot certificate in 2007 and his flight instructor certificate in September 2021, according to Federal Aviation Administration records.

Two days before the crash, the Cessna was flown in at least four short trips to and from the Lantana airport, according to FlightAware. The report doesn’t identify the flight school, and multiple flight schools operate from the airport.

The plane departed from runway four and began to climb, dropped, then climbed again, the NTSB report said. It rolled right to a 90-degree bank angle and continued in a right downward turn until it crashed.

“A pilot who witnessed the accident reported that the airplane’s engine ‘sounded like it was full throttle the entire time,'” the report said.

The plane came to a stop 140 feet away from where it crashed and caught fire on the ground. The impact crushed the cockpit into the back of the plane, according to the report, and both wings detached from the body.

Multiple cable pulleys that are part of the aircraft’s primary control system were corroded and did not freely move or rotate, the report said. The preliminary investigation found more breaks in the system that helps safely control an aircraft in flight, “consistent with tension overload failures.”

The plane’s last annual inspection was in September 2022, the report said. The previous owner documented that the aircraft’s original maintenance logbooks were lost and would be given to the flight school when found.

Two other small planes crashed in South Florida within days of the crash that killed Sands and Matias. A banner-towing plane crashed in a field at North Perry Airport the day before, on May 25. The pilot survived but suffered “extensive injuries,” Pembroke Pines Fire Rescue officials said.

Mitchell Knaus, the pilot of a second banner-towing plane crashed on May 17 in Hollywood near a parking lot of a Target. One witness said it appeared he tried to avoid hitting people as the plane dove to the ground.

The NTSB recently released a preliminary report on that crash.

“I might have to drop this banner. I’m not climbing. Zero alpha bravo,” Knaus told an air-traffic controller, according to the report.

At 400 feet in the air, Knaus said he was going to drop his banner over a lake.

“I’m going to be over these oil tanks with like a lake next to it,” he said. There was no other communication with him, the NTSB report said.

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