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Part-time Newport Beach resident killed in crash

Selicia Kennedy-Ross

Retired cosmetic surgeon William Graham Wood, a part-time resident of

Newport Beach, died Monday after the experimental home-built airplane he

was flying crashed over the Everglades in Florida. He was 57.

Wood, who also had a residence in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was a certified

commercial pilot. He was flying the two-seater Rocket II airplane, which

he built in Texas, with a passenger, Michael Fridley of Moyock, N.C.

Fridley survived the crash.The plane departed from Fort

Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport at 3:15 p.m. and was headed

north to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport five miles away.

Fridley told authorities Wood was practicing maneuvers and banking left

when the engine suddenly quit and the plane dropped from the sky like a

rock, said Jim Leljadal, spokesperson for Broward County Sheriff’s

Department.

The crash occurred around 4:30 p.m., Leljadal said.

Both men were conscious after the crash.

Fearing the plane would settle into the muddy water, Fridley pulled Wood

from the cockpit and placed him on the plane’s wing, although he himself

sustained several injuries, including a broken leg and arm.

“We were in water that was three to four feet deep with fuel in it and I

didn’t want the plane to go down with him in it,” said Fridley, 57. “He

told me his back hurt pretty bad so I made him as comfortable as I could

and I told him I was going to get help.”

Fridley managed to move through the mud and water to a fishing camp more

than 200 yards away. He broke into the building, but couldn’t find a

phone. He collapsed there, unable to make it back to the wreckage site.

The next morning, authorities were notified the plane was overdue by a

woman, whose name was not released but is believed to be Wood’s

girlfriend, Leljadal said.

The Coast Guard and Sheriff’s department then began their search. A

private search was also launched. The plane’s wreckage was spotted

accidentally by a passing helicopter, authorities said.

By the time searchers reached the wreckage 22 hours later, Wood was

pronounced dead at the scene, Leljadal said.

Wood died from major blunt force trauma, said Paul Randall, investigator

for the Broward County Medical Examiner.

The cause of death has been listed as accidental, he said.

Fridley has been moved from intensive care to a private room and is

expected to make a full recovery.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation

Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash.

According to Fridley, Wood had no surviving relatives.

“He didn’t have any family,’ said Fridley, who had known Wood for a year.


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