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EVERGLADES CITY — An investigation is under way in Everglades City to determine what caused the Friday plane crash that killed the host of a popular TV fishing show.
Jose Wejebe, who hosted “Spanish Fly,” a saltwater fishing show on the Outdoor Channel and formerly on ESPN, died when his kit plane plummeted into a field near the runway shortly after takeoff from Everglades Airpark.
An investigator sent Saturday to Everglades City for two or three days will release a preliminary report of the findings soon after, said an official with the National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates civil aviation accidents.
Peter Knudson, a spokesman for the NTSB, said the investigator will look at three areas — man, machine and environment — to determine the cause of the crash.
“She will document the wreckage and see if it had a role in (the crash). She will look at the engine,” Knudson said. “She will get a statement from the witness, since we were informed by police that there was one.”
Former Collier EMS Chief Jeff Page was chartering a boat when the crash happened, he told NBC-2, a news partner of the Daily News. Page told the TV station that he saw the aircraft take off from the Everglades City Airport after 4:30 p.m. Friday and then felt the winds shift.
He said he thinks the plane got caught in a crosswind before hitting the ground and exploding.
“The plane popped up and it looked like it got its nose too high into the wind and it almost put it straight vertical,” he told NBC-2. “The initial exploding of when it hit, there was no way anyone could survive it — no way anyone could even approach the plane.”
Knudson said weather will be looked at as a factor of the crash, as well as what Wejebe did in the last 72 hours before his flight.
“It’s routine to see if there was something he did that might have affected what happened,” he said.
Knudson said the Federal Aviation Administration and the manufacturer of the Comp Air 8, which is the kit plane Wejebe was flying, also will send representatives to assist with the investigation. Wejebe is the registered owner of the plane, according to FAA records.
Tom Hornish, chief executive officer and president of Outdoor Channel Holdings Inc., the network that aired Wejebe’s show, said the channel was “deeply saddened” at learning of Wejebe’s passing.
“He was a great sportsman who thoroughly enjoyed the outdoors as well as a sincere, caring individual,” he said in a statement. “We, along with his fans, will miss him greatly.”
Fans took to Wejebe’s Facebook fan page in droves, posting messages of condolence under Wejebe’s last posted photo on the page, a picture of a tarpon being caught on his new boat.
“I lived vicariously through Jose 30 minutes at a time,” wrote fan Bobbi Hendricks Worthington on the Facebook page. “An irreplaceable loss to the fishing world. May the Spanish Fly forever sail on calm seas.”