Air Force veteran flight instructor killed in crash, Navy SEAL survives

Phil Briggs
February 26, 2019 - 7:44 am
Tim Sheehy stands with a neighbor who responded to assist moments after the crash.

Tim Sheehy


Two veterans were involved in a tragic accident on Saturday, when a plane crashed into a house in Winter Haven, Florida, killing the flight instructor and injuring the student pilot and a 17-year-old girl who was inside the home.

The instructor on the plane, Air Force veteran James Wagner, died in the crash. According to WFTV Channel 9, family members said Wagner was an experienced pilot who was once a pilot for Publix supermarket chain and for American singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett.

Miraculously Tim Sheehy, a Montana businessman and decorated Navy SEAL who is also a graduate of the US Naval Academy and Army Ranger training walked away from the incident with minor injuries.  

According to authorities, the plane lost power moments after takeoff and crashed into the bedroom of a home near Winter Haven Regional Airport, where according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd it pinned down a 17-year-old girl. Rescue crews were able to free the teen, and she was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.


According to Fox 13 News, “a bloody and scrapped up Sheehy rushed to the girl's aid, removing his shirt to help stop the bleeding. Sheehy also quickly cut off power to the home to prevent an electrical fire and called 911.”

In an email to KBUL radio host Aaron Flint, Sheehy credits neighbors for their quick actions following the crash, “…The neighborhood folks deserve credit for their selfless acts of bravery immediately after the crash. With a fire imminent they were courageous in their acts.”

Luis Nuñez, the son-in-law of flight instructor James Wagner told ABC 10 News, “He was just the best man I'd ever met.”

Though saddened by the tragic accident Nuñez said, "He would've given his life for them in a heartbeat … He was just that kind of person."

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating to find out what caused the plane to crash.

Want to get more connected to the great stories and resources Connecting Vets has to offer? Click here to sign up for our weekly newsletter.