INDIANTOWN — Two Florida Atlantic University graduate biology students, a school employee and the owner of an aviation school were killed Thursday when a small plane crashed in a cow pasture while conducting a bird survey near Lake Okeechobee, officials said.
The pilot of the Cessna 172 Skyhawk was Jeff Rozelle, owner of Kemper Aviation based at Lantana Airport, officials said. It was the third fatal crash involving a Kemper plane since October.
One of the graduate students was identified as Damion Marx, 35. The names of the other graduate student and an FAU lab technician were not released pending notification of their families.
The plane crashed around 9 a.m. near a development of 20-acre ranch homes known as Martin County Ranches, said Henry Johnson, Martin County Fire-Rescue assistant chief.
"The airport did not get a mayday call," Johnson said.
The crash was first reported by a resident in neighboring Okeechobee County, he said.
The plane had taken off from an airport in Lantana, said Martin County sheriff's spokeswoman Rhonda Irons.
The plane, built in 1999, was registered to Rohan Aviation Inc., which is a trademark of Kemper Aviation Inc. Ashley Miles, who answered the company's dispatch line in Lantana, said there was no comment.
No one was injured on the ground. No homes or other buildings were damaged.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Warren Woodberry said the agency is investigating the crash. He said the cause was unknown. He added that the FAA recently inspected Rohan Aviation's maintenance and operations.
Kemper's two previous crashes killed four people. On Oct. 27, a Kemper Aviation pilot and two students crashed during a night flight after reporting engine trouble. Two died. On Dec. 8, a Kemper student was killed along with the pilot of another plane when the two collided over the Everglades.