Broward News

Margate Man Dies When His Experimental Plane Crashes Into Lake Okeechobee

Bruce Lowerre had a simple but soaring dream. "I want to finish my plane," he wrote on his blog. "I've been building since 1977... and my plane hasn't flown yet!"

Sadly, that dream came to a terrible end on Saturday when Lowerre fatally crashed his home-built seaplane into Lake Okeechobee.

Lowerre is far from the first Floridian to die in a home-built plane, however. A 2011 New Times investigation found that DIY aircraft are far deadlier than their professionally manufactured counterparts.

See also: Home-built aircraft thrill and kill

Lowerre spent years working on his baby: a S-12 float plane capable of landing on water.

On his blog, Lowerre posted dozens of photos of the plane as it took shape. He also posted photos of his "adorable sister" and recipes for cheesecake and a clam bake.

But the humble Margate resident's plan to finally fly his home-built plane went horribly wrong on Saturday. Sometime around 8 a.m., Lowerre's beloved plane crashed upside down into Lake Okeechobee near the town of Pahokee.

The accident was first reported as a boating accident, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. Investigators quickly realized their mistake but could not save Lowerre, who was trapped inside the single-engine plane's cockpit. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating.

Such home-built, or "experimental," aircraft are extremely popular in South Florida, but they are also potentially deadly.

Hundreds of South Florida pilots fly aircraft they've assembled themselves from components out of cardboard boxes delivered in the mail. Across the nation, the number of home-built craft has soared in recent years, in part because they cost a fraction of factory-built models and are encumbered by less regulation.

But a 2011 New Investigation found that they are also a hell of a lot more dangerous. Home-built aircraft are five times as likely to crash as professionally made planes. And if an accident does happen, their pilots are seven times as likely to die, according to federal investigators.

In 2011, for instance, at least 212 home-built aircraft crashed around the United States, killing 63 people; in the Sunshine State alone, more than 70 have perished in hundreds of crashes in the past decade.

Lowerre's blog bears the title: "Bruce Lowerre: Crossed the continent countless times." His voyage came to an end of Saturday. May he rest in peace.

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Michael E. Miller