Fla. plane crash kills 5, including baby

July 11, 2007

SANFORD, Fla. - A small plane carrying the husband of a NASCAR executive crashed into a neighborhood yesterday and engulfed two houses in flames, killing both people aboard the aircraft and three others on the ground.

The pilot had reported smoke in the cockpit and was trying to make an emergency landing when the twin-engine plane went down in suburban Orlando, officials said.

NASCAR confirmed that Dr. Bruce Kennedy, 54, a Daytona Beach plastic surgeon and husband of International Speedway Corp. president Lesa France Kennedy, and NASCAR Aviation pilot Michael Klemm, 56, were among the dead.

On the ground, Janice Joseph, 24, and her son Joseph Woodard, 6 months, were killed when their home was hit by the plane, police said.

Also killed was a 4-year-old girl, Gabriela Dechat, who was in a home next door. Her parents, Milagros Dechat, 33, and Peter Dechat, 36, were seriously injured and transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center, police said.

A 10-year-old boy also in the Dechat home was hospitalized with burns over 80 percent to 90 percent of his body.

The plane had been traveling from Daytona Beach to Lakeland when the pilot reported smoke in the cockpit shortly before the crash, said Kathleen Bergen with the Federal Aviation Administration. The pilot was trying to land at a nearby airport but went down a mile or two north of it.