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20-year-old Tampa man injured when plane hits DeLand Publix

Published Apr. 4, 2012

DeLAND — A 20-year-old Stetson University student from Tampa was one of three customers injured when a plane plunged into a grocery store Monday night.

Firefighters and investigators were expected Tuesday to inspect the damage after a small experimental plane crashed through the roof into the meat department at a Publix supermarket, injuring five people in all.

Brendan Beitler suffered burns to his legs and was taken to a hospital for treatment, according to university officials. Stetson University's main campus is located in DeLand, about 40 miles north of Orlando.

Beitler's father, Douglas Beitler, told local station WFTV that his son said the explosion sent a wall of fire through the store. The flames singed the hair on the college student's arms and set his leg on fire.

"He literally said, 'I am on fire, somebody help me,' " Douglas Beitler said. He said his son was airlifted to an Orlando hospital but would be okay.

Three customers were hurt when the plane plunged into the Northgate Shopping Center around 7:20 p.m. Monday, said Dwaine Stevens, a Publix spokesman.

Initial reports indicated the problem with the plane was mechanical, DeLand Mayor Robert Apgar told the Orlando Sentinel. Two people aboard the plane remained hospitalized in Orlando.

Two other customers were expected to be treated and released, Florida Hospital DeLand spokeswoman Diane Maimone said.

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