MIAMI BEACH — One person was killed and five others were injured, including two toddlers, after a small plane crash-landed on a bridge near Haulover Park on Saturday afternoon, striking a car and bursting into flames, authorities said.
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 shock waves throughout our NATCA family,” NATCA President Rich Santa said in a statement.
Authorities have not yet confirmed the identity of those involved in the crash.
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 headed for Key West International Airport.
A woman and two toddlers were in a car driving on the bridge when the plane made the emergency landing, Miami-Dade police said. After a head-on collision with the car, the plane flipped and became engulfed in flames. Another car was clipped in the crash.
Miami-Dade Police spokesperson Alvaro Zabaleta said it was “miraculous” that the woman with the children emerged from the collision with no serous injuries.
“God’s hands were protecting those kids because what are the odds? A head-on collision with an aircraft and you get to walk off. Amazing,” he told the Miami Herald.
Rescue crews find one dead, five injured
When Miami-Dade Fire Rescue arrived, two of the three plane passengers were already outside of the aircraft. After firefighters put out the blaze, they found a person dead inside the plane, police said.
The woman and children were in good, stable condition and taken to Mount Sinai Medical Center as a precaution.
One person was taken by helicopter to Ryder Trauma Center and another person was taken to Aventura Hospital. Their conditions were not immediately known.
According to the FAA’s plane registry and the global flight tracking site FlightRadar24, the aircraft belongs to two local pilots, Adam Cartwright of Homestead and William Shaw of Miami.
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The FAA has not officially released the aircraft’s registration number, but Shaw confirmed to the Miami Herald it was his plane that crashed on Saturday afternoon.
Neither Cartwright nor Shaw were in the plane, Shaw said, adding he had no other comment about the fatal incident. It wasn’t immediately clear who had piloted the plane.
Due to fuel runoff from the crash, the Department of Environmental Resources Management was called to the scene at Collins Avenue and 108th Street, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said.
Expert says crash may not have affected bridge’s integrity
A bridge inspection company and workers with the Florida Department of Transportation 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 are going to diagnose that and look that over,” he said.
The bridge spans the inlet where Biscayne Bay flows 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 consulting company XR Structural based in Austin, Texas, said it was not possible to know the impact the plane crash may have had on the bridge until the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had investigated.
He said it was a “very stout looking bridge.” Factors for assessing damage to the bridge would include the impact of the crash, the weight of the plane and where the heat from the blaze of the wreck sat, he said.
Because the single-engine Cessna is a relatively light plane and the impact does not initially seem to be substantial, Howell said there was less concern about loss of structural integrity of the bridge.
“If you had an airliner or something big with a big crash it could have certainly done a lot of damage,” Howell said.
As for heat, because the crash was on top of the bridge and heat rises it shouldn’t pose a risk, he said.
“A fire on top of the deck has rarely caused much damage to the concrete,” he said. “Vehicles crash and burn regularly.”
Social media abuzz with videos of fiery wreck
Social media videos showed the plane ablaze on the bridge.
On the bridge, the plane caught fire and broke up. A minivan sat heavily damaged near the plane.
Crash causes major traffic woes
Until the plane is moved and the roads are cleared of debris, street closures are causing heavy traffic jams.
About eight miles of Collins Avenue from 96th Street to 163rd Street is closed to traffic in both directions, Zabaleta said.
“We understand that it is causing major traffic gridlock and we apologize for that...” he said.
Roads are anticipated to be closed for several hours and into the night as the FAA and NTSB remove the airplane from the bridge.
Bal Harbour Manager Jorge Gonzalez said that the crash is having a ripple effect on traffic in the Miami Beach and Northeast Miami-Dade areas.
“It is going to be a challenge for some time,” Gonzalez said. “The traffic grid is very fragile. An accident like this will have repercussions throughout Northeast Dade.”