Hamilton County residents pray for couples lost in Florida plane crash


Friends and family of Hamilton County residents who died April 5 in a plane crash off the Florida coast are offering prayers and expressing shock at the news. 

The victims were William Jeffrey and Patricia Lumpkin of Fishers, and Noblesville couple Rick and Bethe Beaver. William Lumpkin, an experienced pilot, was flying his 1976 Piper fixed-wing, single-engine plane at the time of the crash. According to the Federal Aviation Administration registration webpage, he registered the plane in June of 2021. 

On Patty Lumpkin’s Facebook page, friends have been posting tributes and expressing sorrow. Among the posts is one from the couple’s pastor, Nathan Peternel, who asked for prayers for the family. 

“Our hearts are broken as they were our friends and faithful servants of Jesus here at Life Church,” Peternel wrote. “Let’s lift their loved ones to the Lord. They will be sorely missed, but they are waking up to the Savior’s face this Easter weekend.”

In the many comments responding to his post, friends expressed shock and sadness, and offered heartfelt prayers. 

In a telephone interview, Peternel said both Patty and William Lumpkin “were in love with life,” were active with the church, and were always willing to volunteer. 

What’s tough is missing really great people in this world that make the world more beautiful than it is,” Peternel said, adding that the Life Church is planning a service, but they’re not yet sure when it can take place. 

Erin Juarez was friends with Patricia Lumpkin. She said the couple will be truly missed. 

“Patty was a beautiful free spirit, compassionate about other women and shared in their struggles,” Juarez said “Her and her husband Jeff (as William was called) were deeply involved with many ministries and were selfless with volunteering their time. Patty and Jeff were mentors and friends to many which influenced people of all ages. They were a bright light set on a hill and others were drawn to their love for others and their faith.”

Patty Lumpkin, 68, worked as a real estate agent at Carpenter Realtors, which has several offices in the greater Indianapolis area; and William Lumpkin, 64, worked as an associate director at Raytheon Technologies, an aviation and aerospace technology firm for commercial, military and government clients. He supervised a team of 171 managers, engineers and system inspectors, according to his LinkedIn profile. 

The fatal crash happened about 9:30 p.m. April 5 soon after the plane took off from the Venice, Fla., airport, according to the Venice Police Dept. 

Police Capt. Andy Leisenring said the two couples had flown to Venice from St. Petersburg, Fla., arriving at around 5 p.m. They had dinner at a local restaurant, and then left to fly back to St. Petersburg. Leisenring said several witnesses were on the pier at the time of the crash and reported it to police. The two men were recovered that night, and the two women were recovered by dive teams on the morning of April 6. 

Leisenring said the main portion of the debris is in 23 feet of water. He added that the National Transportation Safety Board is recovering the debris and is leading the investigation into the crash. He said that the families were notified before the victims’ names were released to the public. 

“And certainly our hearts go out to them as they deal with this tragedy,” Leisenring said. 

Venice Airport Director Mark Cervasio said his crews did a sweep of the runway the plane used to make sure there wasn’t anything on the ground that could have contributed to the tragedy and found nothing. He said the plane didn’t use airport services, other than parking, and didn’t fuel up at the airport.

Cervasio said his response when he heard about the crash was, “Gut wrenching. Gut wrenching.”

The April 5 crash is the second fatal plane crash in Venice in recent months. According to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, a family of three died soon after takeoff on the evening of Dec. 3, 2022. A preliminary NTSB report on that crash noted the lack of light, and the lack of a discernible horizon.