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'I hope Faith is okay': Friends react to loss of 4 people in midair plane collision in Winter Haven

People in the community are finding comfort in their passion for aviation. They say they died doing what they loved.

TAMPA, Fla. — A midair plane collision has caused unthinkable grief in a community left without four people.

The plane that was only partially submerged in Lake Hartridge was removed by crews Wednesday, but the scene was still monitored overnight because the other small plane involved is 21 feet underwater. The National Transportation Safety Board said one person has yet to be recovered.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office identified the four people killed Tuesday. People in the community are finding comfort in their passion for aviation. They say they died doing what they loved.

Louis DeFazio was a 78-year-old veteran and decorated pilot and instructor at Jack Brown's Seaplane Base.

He was on a Piper J-3 Cub seaplane headed to Lake Jesse with 67-year-old Randall Crawford from Pennsylvania when their plane collided with a Piper Cherokee 161 fixed-wing plane.

"That the Piper Cherokee was doing pattern work at the Winter Haven Airport. They were practicing touch-and-go maneuvers," Lynn Spencer with the NTSB said.

Onboard was 24-year-old Faith Baker, a pilot and instructor, and 19-year-old Zachary Mace, a Polk State College student. 

"My first thought was, 'I hope Faith is OK.' So I text her to see if she was and then I never got a text back," Kristie Meritt, Faith's close friend said.

They worshiped and sang together at People's Church in Winter Haven. Newly married, her church family says March 18 would've been the couple's one-year anniversary. 

"It was rewarding to see her on stage because of I knew what it took every week for her to walk up there and do that," Music Pastor David Burton said. "It wasn't her nature. It was very frightening for her."

Burton says Faith was shy, but she was loving and kind. She had overcome adversity in her life and fought to push herself forward through her Faith in God and the cross. 

"I was the ring bearer at her wedding!" Tristen Rose, her friend and drummer in the church band, said. "Her and Jonathan were meant to be. They were a real cute couple. They were a lot of fun together."

Faith's quiet sense of humor came out around friends and family. The danger that comes with flying never stopped her from pursuing her dream of becoming a commercial pilot.

"Nobody knows when their last day is gonna be," Rose said. "It was always in the back of my mind."

Now an empty mic on stage takes Faith's place, but her spirit will fill People's Church every Sunday.

"We love you. We're gonna miss you, but we're looking forward to seeing you again," Burton said.

Crews plan to remove the second plane from Jack Brown's Seaplane Base Thursday. That's also when the NTSB will give another update, but it'll take awhile to figure out exactly what happened. Investigators  a preliminary report is expected in about two to three weeks and a full report indicating the cause in about 12 to 18 months.

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