Article Courtesy of Sun Sentinel
By Linda Trischitta
Published March 24, 2019
Commercial pilot Derek
Damion Morgan was on his first solo flight
towing a banner when he crashed into a
19-story condominium at Fort Lauderdale
beach, a newly released federal report says.
Morgan, 28, of Lake Tapps,
Wash., died March 1 during the plane’s crash into the
eastern facade of the Berkley South Condominium.
The plane did not catch fire.
No one else was hurt, although a resident was inside a condo
when the plane crashed into it and about 20 construction
workers were on a second-floor pool deck.
The condominium at 3015 N. Ocean Blvd. is just south of East
Oakland Park Boulevard and is being renovated. After the
crash, witnesses described a strong smell of fuel at the
The National Transportation Safety Board issued its
preliminary report Friday.
It said Morgan was scheduled to fly two hours with a
30-foot-high by 90-foot-long company banner from North Perry
Airport in Pembroke Pines.
A pilot died when a yellow plane towing a
banner crashed into a Fort Lauderdale high-rise condominium and fell
onto a pool deck several floors below.
While piloting the
aircraft, a Piper PA-25, Morgan picked up the banner on his first pass, his
company, Aerial Banners North, told a federal investigator.
Morgan flew east and made several passes near the beach in Hollywood and
then flew north.
While flying over Anglin’s Fishing Pier at Commercial Boulevard, the plane
was about 400 feet above the ocean when it turned south and flew toward
Oakland Park Boulevard, the NTSB said.
Witnesses then reported the plane flew west or northwest over land, when
Federal Aviation Administration radar showed it had descended to about 200
feet above the ground.
The plane banked sharply and the banner twisted and separated, one witness
said. Another witness thought Morgan’s sharp turn was an attempt to fly over
Northeast 30th Street and between two tall buildings.
The Piper crashed into the 16th and 17th stories of the condominium before
falling to the pool deck.
Witnesses gave varying descriptions of how the engine appeared to be
performing, calling it sputtering, operating normally or at a low throttle
A condo resident affected by the crash told an investigator the engine was
operating at full throttle.
An online obituary for Morgan published by Forest Lawn Funeral Home of Fort
Lauderdale said he was born in Tacoma, Wash., and was the son of Amber
Morgan and Armando Coto Howard.
Mogan was certified in August 2018 as a commercial pilot for single- and
multi-engine planes, according to the FAA website.
The NTSB investigation will include the pilot’s performance, all pilot
training records and company maintenance practices, which are standard
A second report that may include a cause for the fatal flight is not
expected to be released for 12 to 24 months, the NTSB said Monday.
Aerial Banners North Inc. issued a statement Monday that said, “We continue
to mourn the tragic loss of Derek Morgan. We strive to surpass industry and
regulatory standards with our maintenance and training programs and are
eagerly awaiting the NTSB’s final report and cause of this accident.”