A small plane plunged into Lake Harney as it approached Orlando Sanford International Airport on Friday, killing the three people aboard, the Seminole County Sheriff's Office said.

  • Small plane crashes into Lake Harney on approach to Sanford airport
  • 3 people aboard small plane were killed, officials said
  • People asked to avoid area while recovery efforts continue Saturday

At about 11:15 a.m., a Connection 900 BE-9L aircraft crashed into the lake, according to Federal Aviation Administration officials.

Witnesses reported seeing an aircraft flying low before crashing into the water, deputies said.

The Sheriff's Office identified the pilot as Kamalesh Naik, 56, of Sanford. The passengers were Men Tao, 22, and Hou Xupeng, 23, both from China but staying in Sanford. 

Officials from both the Seminole and Volusia County Sheriff's Offices are handling the crash, along with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers. Volunteers also were assisting with recovery efforts.

George Tanner was on one of his frequent visits to the lake Friday morning and didn’t realize a small plane had crashed nearby.

"I was already on the water when all the officers came," he said. "I heard the sirens, and I knew something was up."

The Seminole Sheriff's Office said recovery efforts will resume Saturday morning. Residents are asked to avoid the search area this weekend.

The National Transportation Safety Board will lead the investigation into the crash.