Video: Pilot's miracle landing

NBC, msnbc.com and news services
updated 6/13/2005 11:53:20 PM ET 2005-06-14T03:53:20

A World War II-era cargo plane sheared off treetops and narrowly missed homes as its crew guided it to a fiery landing on a Fort Lauderdale city street on Monday. All three people on board survived.

Though hospitalized, the three were “sitting up and talking on their cell phones” hours after the crash, hospital spokeswoman Maria Soldani said. Two people on the ground also were hurt, one seriously.

The DC-3 cargo flight en route to the Bahamas crashed about three miles east of Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport shortly after takeoff, said Greg Martin, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

The co-pilot told firefighters a fuel line broke and one of the plane’s two engines was in flames before the crash, said Stephen McInerny, assistant chief of operations for Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue.

Pilot Charles Riggs, co-pilot Charles Wirt and passenger Hector Espinoza were in fair condition at Holy Cross Hospital. The two people injured on the ground were also hospitalized, including one in serious condition, McInerny said.

“We’re very thankful” that no one was killed in the crash, Riggs said from his hospital bed.

Espinoza told emergency room personnel that “he jumped from the cockpit and landed on the concrete,” physician Seth Marquit said.

The plane narrowly missed a major intersection.

Some residents were evacuated and the Red Cross offered shelter for the night.

Jay Huber said he was in his backyard when he heard a “terrible engine noise. ... This plane was just pancaking, nose up, engines going like hell, like it was trying to stay up, and it was only about 150 feet in air.”

Another witness, Mark Davis, said he watched from about a block away as the plane roared overhead, its wings clipping the treetops.

DC-3s are regarded as cheap, reliable aircraft capable of taking off from short runways.

Another Bahamas-bound cargo flight narrowly missed buildings as it crashed in December northeast of Miami. That twin-engine Convair crashed into a lake surrounded by condominiums as the pilot and co-pilot scrambled to safety.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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