110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Photo of DeLand Publix interior released; injured student's family issues statement
Publix will reopen at Northgate, company spokesman said
By Beacon staff
posted Apr 2, 2012 - 7:57:06pm
UPDATE 12:33 P.M. APRIL 5: The family of the Stetson University student injured in the April 2 plane crash at DeLand's Northgate Plaza Publix issued the following statement through the university: "The Beitler family would like to thank everyone for the wonderful outpouring of concern and support for Brendan. At this time, we are focused on helping Brendan through his recovery and would ask that you respect our privacy. Please keep in your thoughts and prayers those hurt in this tragedy, as well as their families."
The family also shared two photos with the news media (one of which accompanies this report). Family members are not granting interviews.
Since the DeLand Police Department last reported on the condition of the three burn victims, including Beitler, who were taken to Orlando Regional Medical Center, the hospital has said it can provide no additional information on their condition. On April 3, the pilot and passenger in the plane were in critical condition, and Beitler was in stable condition, according to police.
Meanwhile, photographers are being denied access to the interior of the store by Publix officials. The City of DeLand, however, released photos of the damaged portion of the store's interior. City officials and Publix engineers surveyed the damage this week, and the city has issued a demolition permit so that the supermarket chain can further assess the damage and determine whether repair is feasible.
Although it's not known when repairs could be completed, or whether a complete rebuilding will be necessary, Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens has said the supermarket will definitely reopen in the Northgate Plaza location.
All 175 employees of the Northgate Plaza store have been temporarily transferred to four "sister" Publix stores in the DeLand area.
"All of our associates will be secure during this repair process," Stevens said.
UPDATE 11:03 A.M. APRIL 4: The Volusia County Sheriff's Office this morning released video shot above the North DeLand Publix supermarket shortly after a small, experimental plane crashed on the store roof at 7:20 p.m. April 2.
The video shows that the plane disappeared completely into the supermarket.
See our full coverage of the crash and its aftermath, including an update on the victims, below the video.
UPDATE 11:30 A.M. APRIL 3: DeLand Police Lt. Jack Waples had the opportunity this morning to go inside the North DeLand Publix supermarket, where a small plane crashed into the roof at 7:20 p.m. Monday evening, causing a fireball to roar through the grocery.
Although the twin-engine experimental plane ended up completely inside the back of the store, Waples said the airplane is no longer recognizable.
"The only thing that I could see that resembles any kind of airplane is the engine itself," Waples said. "There's a big old gaping hole in the ceiling. It looks like [it was] a hot fire; it looks like it burned right up."
Waples said he does not have ages or addresses for the people most severely injured in the crash and resulting fire, but he could report that the two occupants of the airplane, both males, were Thomas Rhoades and Kim Presbrey. Both men are in critical condition at Orlando Regional Medical Center (ORMC).
The three customers who were injured are all local residents, Waples said. They are Lisa Cordova, April Morris and Brendan Beitler. Beitler, Waples said, is still at ORMC but is in stable condition. Cordova and Morris were released Monday night after being treated at Florida Hospital-DeLand.
Waples said the DeLand Fire Department is still addressing hotspots from the fire. Late this afternoon, he said, City of DeLand officials hope to be able to inspect the building to determine its structural soundness. Once that's done, the building will be turned over to Publix, Waples said.
Beacon staff members are currently attending a press conference at Northgate Shopping Plaza being conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board. This story will be updated as soon as possible.
UPDATE 9:30 P.M.: DeLand resident Mark Grantham was selecting goat cheese in the dairy aisle at the Northgate Shopping Center Publix this evening when the building shook and the lights flickered.
"I looked at the wall in front of me and there was this black liquid dripping down the wall," Grantham said.
Without knowing why, Grantham said, he turned and headed toward the front of the store. Suddenly he felt heat on his skin — "like the day after a bad sunburn" — and a gigantic yellow-orange fireball roared through the store, two aisles from Grantham.
The ceiling instantaneously blackened and pieces of it began to fall, Grantham said.
"This immense fireball erupted. I got nervous and ran to the front of the store, like everybody else," Grantham said.
He made it to his car, parked near the building, and sat in the car for a few moments, to calm down. Within a very few minutes, Grantham said, DeLand police and firefighters were on the scene.
"It's the most scared I've ever been, now that I think about it," he said.
DeLand Police Lt. Jack Waples confirmed that the plane that came down on the Publix roof at 7:20 p.m. this evening was a twin-engine, experimental-type aircraft, with two people aboard, that had just taken off from the DeLand Municipal Airport.
Waples said something went wrong with the airplane and it went down on the northeast section of the supermarket roof. It did not nosedive into the building, he said.
Witnesses said a portion of the roof collapsed.
The pilot, a passenger aboard the plane, and one other person, possibly a Publix customer, were burned and were airlifted to the burn unit at Orlando Regional Medical Center. Two other people, thought to be customers, were taken to Florida Hospital-DeLand with injuries, Waples said.
There were no reported fatalities.
Waples said all the Publix employees who were at work this evening are accounted for and are OK.
A representative with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach said the plane was not an Embry-Riddle aircraft.
Quinn Booth, a member of the DeLand skydiving community, said the airplane is not one that is familiar to local skydivers.
UPDATE 8:55 P..M.: Van Vickers, a member of the DeLand Experimental Aircraft Association, reported that the airplane that crashed into the North DeLand Publix supermarket at 7:30 p.m. is thought to be an amphibious type plane, possibly a Yellow Amphibian.
The DeLand Police said the craft was an experimental airplane.
The area around the Publix is extremely congested. In the parking lot, anxious people tried to reach relatives who were working or shopping in the Publix store, hoping to confirm that their loved ones were OK.
One young woman held herself as waited. She said she thought her mother had been shopping inside the store.
"She's not answering her cell phone," the young woman said.
DeLand Police Sgt. Chris Estes said five people were injured, three with severe burns. Estes said there were no known fatalities.
Witness Jose Martinez, who was at Lowe's next door when the crash happened, said when the airplane hit the store, a fireball and then thick smoke rose from the roof.
The two people aboard the aircraft survived, and were airlifted from the scene.
U.S. Highway 92 is closed in the area of the crash.
UPDATE 8:38 P.M.: Two people aboard a small airplane that crashed into the North DeLand Publix store about 7:30 p.m. today survived and were airlifted from the scene.
DeLand Police said it is believed five people were injured, three of them severely burned. They are being transported to area hospitals. At this time, there are no known fatalities.
It is believed there was at least one customer injured.
Jose Martinez of Pierson was in the parking lot at Lowe's next door to Publix when the airplane, which appeared to have just taken off from the DeLand Municipal Airport, flew over the Lowe's store.
Martinez said the craft appeared to be a twin-engine airplane. He said it was running rough, the engine was missing.
After clearing the Lowe's, the airplane dove into the back of the Publix store, where the meat and seafood departments are located. People on the scene said an acrid smoke was flowing from the back of the store at 8:30 p.m.
REPORTED EARLIER: "It looks like Armageddon," said a witness on the scene at the North DeLand Publix, where a small plane crashed into the supermarket's roof about 7:30 p.m. this evening.
People were injured, it is believed inside the store, but the number and severity of injuries is unknown.
The area, just northeast of the intersection of North Woodland Boulevard with International Speedway Boulevard, is extremely congested and should be avoided if possible.
International Speedway Boulevard (U.S. Highway 92) is closed between Woodland Boulevard and North Garfield Avenue.
The airplane caused a fire when it crashed into the supermarket roof, and witnesses said huge black clouds rolled up from the Publix building.
"I was just coming outside the building," one witness said. "I was putting my groceries in my car when I heard this big thud."
A man nearby said he had seen an airplane crash-land into the Publix roof.
"There are people everywhere," the witness said.
REPORTED EARLIER: An airplane crashed into the DeLand Publix store just after 7:45 p.m. this evening, causing a fire at the supermarket.
Some people were injured, possibly inside the store. The number and severity of the injuries is unknown.
Police, firefighters and rescue personnel are on the scene.
This story will be updated as soon as more information is available.
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