Brother and sister die in air tragedy

A YOUNG female pilot and her brother were killed when the light aircraft they were travelling in crashed in a swamp area of rural Florida.

• Carly Beattie and her brother Daniel both died in the crash

Carly Beattie, 21, and her brother Daniel, 24, from Penicuik, died when their hired Cessna 152 crashed near Blue Cypress Lake after taking off from Merritt Island airport on Thursday.

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Miss Beattie, a former pupil of St George's School in Edinburgh, who studied Air Transport with Commercial Pilot Training at Buckinghamshire New University in England, was flying the aircraft at the time.

The siblings were in the US with their parents, Elaine and Thomas. US authorities said the family were visiting the area, although Miss Beattie's Facebook page states that she lives in Merritt Island, on the east coast of Florida, where she was thought to be continuing her pilot's training.

Officials said the $90-an-hour chartered plane left the Space Coast Aviation flying school at Merritt Island Airport about 10am on Thursday for a three-hour flight and never returned.

The wreckage was discovered yesterday in a wooded area about two miles from a mobile phone tower used to locate the plane.

Rescue teams had to trek through woods and wade waist-high through an alligator and snake-infested swamp to reach the crash scene. Because of the isolated location, rescue workers were still trying to recover the bodies last night.

"The plane went into a heavily wooded area that isn't usually accessible to boat traffic or vehicular traffic. We had to kind of trek in there knee and waist-deep," said James Harpring, acting public information officer for Indian River Sheriff's Department.

"Exactly what happened, we don't know. This was an isolated area and we don't have eyewitness reports or information whether it was engine trouble, smoke, fire or whatever."

The authorities were notified of the siblings' disappearance at 8pm on Thursday and launched an "at-risk missing persons" investigation, using "pinging" techniques to pinpoint the mobile telephone tower that was picking up the signal from Miss Beattie's phone.

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The Federal Aviation Administration also assisted in the search and rescue effort, which involved firefighters, sheriff's officials and local volunteers and resulted in the discovery of the aircraft with one wing wrapped around a tree.

"The airplane was located where it had crashed in a wooded area within two miles from the cellphone tower. Both pilot and passenger were found deceased," said Mr Harpring.

"Exactly what happened, we don't know. This was an isolated area and we don't have eyewitness reports or information whether it was engine trouble, smoke, fire or whatever."

A statement from the Brevard County Sheriff's Office said: "The flight was scheduled for three hours and was chartered by a 21-year-old student pilot Carly Beattie and her 24-year-old brother Daniel Beattie. The siblings and their parents were visiting from Scotland and staying in Merritt Island."

Miss Beattie, who also studied at Basil Patterson's College, was a keen sprinter who had successfully competed in club-level athletics for Edinburgh City and was also a triathlete. Among her Facebook "friends" were Flight Level 500, a recruitment assistance service that helps pilots find employment and Flight Deck, a consulting company that specialises in preparing would-be pilots for job interviews.

The degree course she had taken at the university in High Wycombe meant she would have obtained a Private Pilot's Licence as part of her studies.

On its website, the university says the three-year BA degree is for those "pursuing a career in the airline and airport industry". It is particularly aimed at students who ultimately want to qualify as commercial pilots.Bucks New University's flying training is provided by Cabair, which also has a base at Merritt Island Airport, close to the Nasa Kennedy Space Centre and 20 minutes from the resort town of Cocoa Beach.

The single-engined Cessna 152 is widely used as a training aircraft due to its light handling and ease of control.

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A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman confirmed that two British nationals had been killed in Florida.

"Our consulate in Orlando are in touch with next of kin and are offering consular support at this extremely difficult time," he said.

Space Coast Aviation offers flight training programmes as well as aircraft charters.

"Whether you are pursuing a career in aviation, making a dream come true or simply visiting the area on vacation, Space Coast Aviation will make it happen for you," it advertises on its website.

The company had no comment last night.