A chartered jet carrying five people crashed on Interstate 75 near Naples, Fla., on Friday afternoon, erupting in flames and claiming the lives of two individuals aboard. According to officials, the three other passengers managed to exit the aircraft before it burst into flames.
The Bombardier Challenger 600 departed from Ohio State University Airport around 1 p.m. and was en route to Naples Airport before proceeding to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
The incident occurred less than five miles away from Naples Airport, around 3:15 p.m. ET, as reported by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Authorities from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the deaths of two individuals in the crash. Robin King, spokesperson for the Naples Airport Authority, stated that the conditions of the three survivors were unknown, according to CNN.
A recording of the pilot’s final communication revealed the dire situation, with the pilot indicating a loss of power in both engines and the impossibility of reaching the runway.
Pilot: “Okay, Challenger, Hop-A-Jet 823, lost both engines, emergency. I’m making an emergency landing.” Controller: “I’ve got an emergency. Clear to land Runway 23.” Pilot: “We’re clear to land but we’re not gonna make the runway. We’ve lost both engines.”
King mentioned that communication with the aircraft was lost just before the crash. “It was coming in for a landing,” she stated. “We received word that it had possibly lost an engine, we have not confirmed that, then we lost contact.”
The cause of the dual-engine failure remains undetermined. While such failures are exceptionally rare due to redundant engine systems, they can be caused by physical obstructions, mechanical failures, or fuel shortages. Aircraft experiencing engine failure can still be guided to a landing using their altitude as a resource.
Eyewitness Brianna Walker described the dramatic crash scene, observing the aircraft clip the top of a pickup truck, skid along the highway, and collide with a concrete wall before bursting into flames. The pickup truck, with its roof sheared off, overturned into the median, but its driver appeared uninjured.
It appeared to Walker that the pilot was attempting to land on the highway. “It was unreal. Like a movie,” she recounted.
Witness Jinny Johnson, who arrived at the scene shortly after the crash, described the intense flames engulfing the aircraft and a damaged car nearby.
Florida Highway Patrol troopers remained at the scene for several hours into the night, with northbound lanes of I-75 reopening by 7:45 pm while southbound lanes remained closed for investigation.
The purpose of the flight and the identities of its passengers remain unknown. King remarked, “We don’t have anybody here at the general aviation terminal waiting for them. We don’t know who they are the nature of the business. We don’t know why they are coming here.”
The flight was chartered through the Hop-a-Jet charter company, which issued a statement acknowledging the accident and promising to send a team to the crash site.
The incident is currently under investigation by the Federal Aviation Authority and the National Transportation Safety Board. The names of the deceased and survivors have yet to be disclosed to the public.