Kim Presbrey crashed into a DeLand, Florida Publix store in his airplane minutes after taking of from the DeLand Municipal Airport, sources indicate. Presbrey, passenger Thomas Rhoades, and three shoppers (April Morris, Brendan Beitler, and Lisa Cordova) were hospitalized after the incident. As of now, no charges have been filed pending an investigation. It is not clear whether a product defect may have been responsible for the crash; it is also not clear whether any of the injured parties or the Publix store are seeking the services of a personal injury lawyer.
According to the airplane crash report, the incident occurred at approximately 7:20 p.m. on March 27 at a Publix store located on International Speedway Boulevard in DeLand. Sources indicate that Presbrey, 60, took off from DeLand Municipal Airport in his 2002 Seawind 3000 amateur-built single engine amphibious experimental airplane with Thomas Rhoades in the passenger seat. It is not clear how the two gentlemen know each other.
Minutes after taking off, Presbrey crashed into the Publix store, which burst into flames, according to reports. It is not clear how many people were inside of the store at the time of the crash. “The engine sounded like it was sputtering, and the next thing you know, it went down nose first,” one of nearly 25 people who dialed 91 told emergency operators. The plane, apparently, exploded on impact and was completely incinerated. “The only thing I saw that resembled an aircraft was an engine. The rest was burned away,” said one witness.
Five victims were taken to Florida Hospital DeLand following the crash. Presbrey was flown to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where he remains in intensive care receiving treatment for third-degree burns. Brendan Beitler, 20, was also flown to Orlando Regional Medical Center for treatment for burns, which were described as severe. Two others, April Morris and Lisa Cordova, were treated at Florida Hospital DeLand for minor injuries before being released.
“I’m an emotional wreck,” Morris told the press after she was released from the hospital. “I’m alive, so I’m thankful that I walked out of there.” She told reporters that she couldn’t talk about what happened because it upset her too much. Cordova seemed to agree that the event was frightening: “Fire was coming from everywhere. It was just horrible,” she told the press.
Presbrey, an Illinois lawyer and partner at Presbrey & Associates law firm, had reportedly been flying his plane for leisure purposes that day. He was, according to a friend, an experienced and safe pilot. It is not yet clear what caused the crash. A police spokesperson said that there were no clear signs that the plane’s engine had failed, although the extent of the wreckage made certainty difficult.
The Publix store, meanwhile, reportedly sustained significant damage, with what was described as a “gaping hole” in its’ roof. Damage inside of the store was reportedly through aisles 2 or 3 through 6 and included significant merchandise loss, and the aircraft’s wreckage was reportedly entirely contained by the store. Publix has yet to release a statement regarding the crash, and the store has been closed indefinitely as repairs and clean-up efforts continue.