South Florida attorneys on Monday mourned four Peterson Bernard lawyers who died in a plane crash in western Palm Beach County on March 8 as they were returning to North Palm Beach from Tampa after meeting with a new client.
The four attorneys who died in the crash were identified as Eric Peterson of Lighthouse Point, Edwin Mortell of Stuart, Heather Bridwell of Jupiter and Matthew Fiorello of Palm Beach Gardens. Pilot Eduardo Mulet of West Palm Beach also died in the crash.
Peterson co-founded Peterson Bernard in 1981 and managed the firm’s West Palm Beach office. The firm specializes in litigation, especially insurance defense.
Mortell was the managing shareholder of the firm’s Stuart office. He was the past president of the Stuart County Bar Association and member of The Pine School board of directors.
Bridwell served two terms as president of the Martin County Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers and was active in the bar. For two years, she organized the Martin County Bar’s Camping and Canoe Trip held at Sebastian’s Inlet.
Fiorello specialized in motor vehicle defense and graduated from Nova Southeastern Law School in 2008.
On Monday, Florida Bar President Michelle Suskauer said in a statement on Twitter: “My heart is breaking at the tragic loss of four amazing members of our legal community who lost their lives in Friday’s plane crash near Pahokee. Please keep their beautiful families in your thoughts.”
Martin County Bar Association president Barbara Kreitz Cook said that all of the deceased attorneys were well-respected.
“It has been really tough on all of our members,” Cook said.
The bar association is currently compiling a collection of tributes written by fellow attorneys to be released soon.
Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath litigator Lance Ivey said he frequently went up against the Peterson Bernard attorneys as opposing counsel. He said he was always struck by their professionalism.
“I’ve crossed paths with all of them and they were all exceptional people and attorneys, he said. “They were genuinely nice inside and outside of litigation and consummate professionals all around. They’ll be dearly missed.”
The airplane, a twin-engine Piper PA 23-250, went down north of the Pahokee Airport in western Palm Beach County, 400 yards off the shore of Lake Okeechobee. Records show the plane took off from Tampa International Airport on a flight to North Palm Beach County Airport west of Palm Beach Gardens.
The plane was diverted to the Pahokee airport because there was “an issue” with the aircraft, Fiorello’s wife told the Palm Beach Post, citing a text message sent shortly before the crash.
The Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash. A spokesperson for the NTSB said findings on its investigation will be released in two weeks.