Five people identified in fatal Lake Okeechobee plane crash

The crash happened after the plane took off from Tampa International Airport.
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Published March 9
Updated March 9

TAMPA — The five people found dead in an airplane that landed in Lake Okeechobee after taking off from Tampa International Airport on Friday have been identified.

The victims were Eduardo Mulet, 45, of West Palm Beach; Eric Peterson, 73, of Lighthouse Point; Matthew Fiorello, 36, of Palm Beach Gardens; Heather Bridwell, 43, of Jupiter; and Edwin Mortell III, 54, of Stuart. The crash happened at about 3:30 p.m. just north of Pahokee Airport, also known as Palm Beach County Glades Airport, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

The plane, a Piper PA-23-250 that seats six, went down 400 yards from shore. The passengers’ bodies were recovered less than three hours later. The cause of the crash has not been determined. The National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the incident while local authorities handle the death investigation.

Peterson, Fiorello, Bridwell and Mortell were attorneys at Peterson Bernard, a law firm with offices in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Stuart, according to the firm’s webpage.

Calls to the firm’s main office were not immediately returned.

Mulet was a commercial pilot and owner of Pilotguy Consulting, records show.

“What I hear was that he was flying a two-engine plane and one engine failed,” said Mulet’s wife, Casandra Mateo. “That’s all I know.”

Reached by phone, Mateo said her husband had been flying for decades, everywhere he’s lived from New Jersey to Florida.

“He got his first flying license when he was a teenager, when he was 15,” Mateo said. “He’s been flying nonstop since that time. Flying was his passion.”

A software developer, Mulet always made time to fly, mostly for leisure, rarely for business clients, his wife said.

“He was always, always there for anybody, at any time,” Mateo said. “Everywhere he went he left marks, and in a very, very positive way. He was a leader.”

Mateo said she couldn’t describe the relationship between her husband and the passengers on board, but had heard the attorneys were in Tampa for a business trip.

Bridwell’s husband declined to comment.

The airplane was registered to a Delaware LLC held by The Company Corporation, owned by the Corporation Service Company, headquartered in Wilmington, FAA records show.

On its website, the Corporation Service Company says it is the “world’s leading provider of business, legal, tax, and digital brand services to companies around the globe,” and the partner of nearly 10,000 law firms.

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact McKenna Oxenden at [email protected] Follow @mack_oxenden.

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