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Friday, June 2, 2023

Jamaican hotelier and airplane mechanic identified as victims of Ocala plane crash

Peter Morrow

A Jamaican hotel owner and a highly experienced airplane mechanic have been identified as the victims of a plane crash in Ocala last week.

The pilot, 73-year-old Peter Morrow, was the co-owner of the Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios, Jamaica with his brother, Eric. The mechanic from Ocala International Airport was identified as 50-year-old Christopher Belcher, who was onboard the small airplane attempting to diagnose a possible mechanical issue.

The crash took place last Thursday in the area of SW College Road between 60th Avenue and 43rd Avenue near Market Street at Heath Brook. It came down on SW College Road and slid across all lanes of traffic before slamming into a large pole and bursting into flames. It also struck a vehicle believed to have been driven by Ramon Escalante, who is recovering from minor injuries.

Prior to the crash, witnesses reported seeing the plane flying plane flying low and almost hitting a hotel before curving over the top of the Dillard’s store in Market Street at Holbrook and slamming onto the busy roadway. The crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board and its findings haven’t yet been released.

Reports indicate that the Beechcraft Baron landed in Ocala last Thursday while en route to California. The plane’s passenger, 74-year-old Russell Morgan, said the duo had flown from Punta Gorda and landed in Ocala to dodge bad weather. He said the plane had experienced an issue with a right fuel sensor while on the way to the Ocala airport but didn’t show any signs of mechanical issues while airborne, an Ocala Police report states.

Law enforcement officers and firefighters responded en masse last Thursday morning to a plane crash across from the busy Market Street at Heath Brook shopping complex in Ocala.

Once at the airport, the plane was towed to a maintenance hangar and Belcher attempted to diagnose the issue with the fuel sensor. He and the pilot attempted to find the problem during ground tests but didn’t have any luck, so they took the plane up for a maintenance flight.

An air traffic controller said the plane left the airport at approximately 11 a.m. and headed west. He said the plane appeared to be losing its course and began to drift east, so the tower advised the pilot to get back on course. He said Morrow then said they needed to return to the airport and within 10 seconds the plane went down, the report states.

Firefighters worked to extinguish a blaze that erupted after a plane crashed on SW College Road in Ocala last Thursday morning.