MIAMI BEACH — One person was killed and five others were injured, including two toddlers, after a small plane crashed into a bridge near Haulover Park on Saturday afternoon, hitting a car and bursting into flames, authorities announced.
Narciso Torres, a 36-year-old Miami International Airport traffic controller, died in the wreckage, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association said. Torres had worked with the Federal Aviation Administration for more than a decade at various airports.
“This is a terrible tragedy that has sent shockwaves through our entire NATCA family,” NATCA President Rich Santa said in a statement.
Authorities have yet to confirm the identities of those involved in the accident.
The single-engine Cessna 172 lost engine power and landed on the Haulover Inlet bridge around 1 p.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said. The plane had taken off from Hollywood-Fort Lauderdale International Airport with three people on board heading for Key West International Airport.
A woman and two small children were in a car traveling on the bridge when the plane made the emergency landing, Miami-Dade police said. After a head-on collision with the car, the aircraft flipped over and was engulfed in flames. Another car was mowed down in the crash.
Miami-Dade police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta said it was “miraculous” that the woman with the children emerged from the collision without serious injury.
“The hands of God were protecting these children, because what are the chances? A head-on collision with an airplane and you’re off. Incredible,” he told the Miami Herald.
Rescuers find one dead and five injured
When Miami-Dade Fire Rescue arrived, two of the plane’s three passengers were already outside the plane. After extinguishing the fire, firefighters found one person dead inside the plane, police said.
The woman and children were in good stable condition and were taken to Mount Sinai Medical Center as a precaution.
One person was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center and another person was taken to Aventura Hospital. Their conditions were not immediately known.
According to the FAA’s Aircraft Registry and global flight tracking site FlightRadar24, the plane is owned by two local pilots, Adam Cartwright of Homestead and William Shaw of Miami.
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The FAA has not officially released the plane’s registration number, but Shaw confirmed to the Miami Herald it was his plane that crashed on Saturday afternoon.
Neither Cartwright nor Shaw were on the plane, Shaw said, adding he had no further comment on the fatal incident. It was not immediately clear who had flown the plane.
Due to fuel runoff from the crash, the Department of Environmental Resource Management was called to the scene at Collins Avenue and 108th Street, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said.
Expert says crash may not have affected integrity of bridge
A bridge inspection company and Florida Department of Transportation workers were also on site Saturday, Zabaleta said. It was too early to determine if the bridge had been damaged, he said.
“I’m sure city officials and the proper authorities will diagnose this and look into this,” he said.
The bridge spans the inlet where Biscayne Bay empties into the Atlantic Ocean. It is just north of Bal Harbour, Surfside and Miami Beach, and south of Haulover Park and Sunny Isles Beach.
Linwood Howell, a bridge engineer with Austin, Texas-based consulting firm XR Structural, said it was not possible to know what impact the plane crash may have had on the bridge until that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) would not have investigated.
He said it was a “very solid looking bridge”. Factors for assessing damage to the deck would include the impact of the crash, the weight of the plane and where the heat from the wreckage fire took hold, he said. .
Since the single-engine Cessna is a relatively light aircraft and the impact does not initially appear substantial, Howell said the loss of structural integrity of the deck is less of a concern.
“If you had an airliner or something big with a big crash, it definitely could have done a lot of damage,” Howell said.
As for the heat, because the crash happened above deck and the heat is increasing, it shouldn’t pose a risk, he said.
“Rarely has a fire above the deck caused much damage to the concrete,” he said. “Vehicles crash and burn on a regular basis.”
Social media abuzz with videos of flaming wreckage
Videos on social media showed the plane on fire on deck.
On deck, the plane caught fire and disintegrated. A van was badly damaged near the aircraft.
An accident causes major traffic problems
Until the aircraft is moved and the roads are cleared of debris, street closures cause heavy traffic congestion.
About eight miles of Collins Avenue, from 96th Street to 163rd Street, is closed to traffic in both directions, Zabaleta said.
“We understand that this is causing major traffic congestion and we apologize for that,” he said.
Roads are expected to be closed for several hours and into the night as the FAA and NTSB remove the plane from the deck.
Bal Harbor manager Jorge Gonzalez said the accident had a ripple effect on traffic in the Miami Beach and northeast Miami-Dade areas.
“It’s going to be a challenge for a while,” Gonzalez said. “The traffic network is very fragile. An accident like this will have repercussions throughout northeast Dade.