Cleanup continues day after Pompano Beach plane crash

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. (WSVN) — The wreckage of a plane in a Pompano Beach neighborhood continues to keep investigators busy a day after it crashed into a home and put three people in the hospital.

The plane was taken apart and removed, Tuesday, after the fiery crash when the pilot experienced trouble after take off, causing the plane to clip a home.

After working on the plane all Tuesday, crews were able to get what was left of the plane out of the Pompano Beach neighborhood.

All three people on board the plane, a pilot and two flight students, survived, but all remain hospitalized at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Tuesday. Around 4 p.m., Tuesday, the Broward Sheriff’s Office officially released the names of the victims. They are 40-year-old Geoffrey White, a pilot from Fort Lauderdale, 23-year-old Sylvia Mena, a student pilot from Ecuador and 25-year-old Fernando Diaz, a student pilot from Peru.

Mena remains in critical condition after the fiery crash, according to officials.

Neighbors told 7News that they wondered when something like this would happen. "My first reaction was, ‘It finally happened’ and ‘What a shame,’" said Pompano Beach resident Linda Enton.

Enton said the crash was something she feared since, she said, the air traffic over the neighborhood has become too busy. "Sometimes they come in two to three seconds apart on landings," she said. "A neighbor that I don’t even know has, that he’s counted, 26 landings in 30 minutes. That’s a minute apart."

On Tuesday, officials and investigators tried to figure out exactly why the Hawker Beechcraft 76 crashed. "Today, my plan is to get on scene to document the site," said National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Senior Investigator, Leah Read. "Including the impact marks and the aircraft, including the engines, the air frame, just so we can get an overall configuration of the aircraft."

Tuesday evening, crews painstakingly took the remaining pieces of the plane from the front and back yards of the home. Then, they placed the pieces onto a flatbed, which will be taken away for the NTSB to analyze.

"That could have been my house, you know?" said one man on the scene.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the plane was being used to practice takeoffs and landings before it crashed in the residential area. After the plane plummeted into the home, the pilot and two passengers miraculously survived. However, they suffered burns of up to 40 percent of their bodies.

Witnesses recounted the moments before and during the accident. "I heard the plane, the engine, rev up and then go straight down," said one bystander. "There was just, like, a fireball," said another witness.

Neighbors who saw the crash jumped into action. "I’m probably 20 feet from the plane and I hear, ‘We’re over here,’" said witness Warren Beck. "I look through the bushes, all three of them are standing in the yard in the back, right next to the engine."

Another homeowner said she did all that was possible before officials arrived. "We went to the back, me and some of the homeowners here, thank God, and we pulled the people to the front and waited for paramedics and called for help," said witness Cindy Burning.

The aircraft was owned by the Florida Aviation Academy, which is based out of the Pompano Beach Air Park.

According to Read, NTSB will work to get more information about the crash. "We’ll talk to some witnesses and find out what was the aircraft attitude," she said. "Was it in a high-pitch attitude? Was it in a steep bank? How were the engines? Was there an engine sound? Did someone hear one engine maybe come back? I don’t have any of that information yet, but those are my things that I want to be looking at to kind of get an idea of what occurred from the time they took off to the time of impact."

No one on the ground was hurt, including the homeowner, who was inside the home at the time of the crash.

Beck said it was a miracle those on board survived. "The pilot kept asking me, ‘How is my face? My face?’ I said, ‘Sir, you’re alive.’"

Pompano Beach Fire Rescue Chief John Jurgle held a press conference on the day of the crash and summed it up thus: "I think there are some very lucky people in Pompano."

When it comes to the traffic that happens over this neighborhood, residents said they have been petitioning their own city commissioners for some time for changes. Whether or not this crash will have any effect on possible changes is still yet to be seen.

The investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Broward Sheriff’s Office continues.

Those three people will hopefully, in the near future, be able to interview and tell officials what happened in the cockpit.