OAKLAND PARK, Fla. (AP) - A small plane sputtered and dove into
a house shortly after taking off from a local airport Friday
morning, slicing the home down the middle into two charred pieces.
The pilot was killed.
The twin-engine Cessna 421 crashed around 11:20 a.m., and the
house burst into flames. The owner's nephew barely escaped the
catastrophe, leaving just before the aircraft hit to visit his
"For now, it's a bit difficult to explain how I feel," said
Oscar Nolasco, 52, who has lived in the home for nearly 20 years.
"Everything is gone."
The house was about two miles from the Fort Lauderdale Executive
Airport, where the plane has just taken off. The pilot, Cecil A.
Murray, 80, of Tarmac, did not survive, said Broward County Sheriff
Al Lamberti. There were no passengers aboard the plane.
The smell of fuel hung in the air hours after the crash, and the
shell of the aircraft was sandwiched between two walls of the beige
house. The home's driveway was black, but its white mailbox was
When the plane began to fail, Rick Cunningham heard a "spitting
and sputtering" while he was painting a house down the street.
Then, he saw the plane coming in sideways, and it nose-dived into
the ground, he said.
Cunningham, 52, ran over to the house and knocked the bedroom
windows down to see if there was anyone inside, but after a few
minutes he had to leave. "The heat was just too intense," he
The plane was headed to Fernandina Beach, just outside
Jacksonville, where airport officials expected it to land around 1
p.m. The pilot, who had logged about 23,000 hours of flying since
1985, was traveling there to sell it, Lamberti said.
But after takeoff, something went wrong. Shortly after it got
into the air, it reported trouble to the tower, and the tower
cleared it to turn around and land, said Chaz Adams, an airport
spokesman. It never made it.
"I said, 'Oh my God, that could have been my house.' It was
that close," said Bill Slugg, who lives across the street.
"I was on the phone, the phone went dead and there was this
loud bang and a lot of black smoke emanating from the area," said
Dorothy O'Brien, 83, who lives nearby. "Black, black smoke for at
least ten minutes."
Though the fire was quickly controlled, firefighters were trying
isolate fuel in the debris, said Oakland Park Fire-Rescue Chief
Donald Widing. A utility company also cut power in the area to
about 1,645 customers because they were not able to get in to
assess damage to power lines.
Nolasco said he and his nephew, Alex Martines, were staying in a
hotel and getting assistance from the Red Cross. When authorities
called him to tell him about the crash, Nolasco said he thought it
was a joke.
Nolasco said his employer has reduced his hours, and it's not
unusal for him to be home on a weekday. He was needed at the
factory Friday, though, and left for work hours before the crash.
"I have to thank God I have my life," he said.
"The house was a total loss," said Broward Sheriff's Office
spokesman Mike Jachles. "The plane went right into the center of
The crash was at least the fifth involving the airport, which
caters to small planes and jets, in the last 12 years.
In 2007, a twin-engine Beechcraft reached about 150 feet after
takeoff before the pilot reported he could not maintain altitude
and declared a mayday. He crashed onto Interstate 95, but survived.
A DC-3 cargo plane crashed shortly after takeoff into a
residential street near the airport in 2005. The pilot, co-pilot
and a passenger all survived. The pilot said at the time they chose
the street because it was quiet and wide, and has an abundance of
tall palm trees he could run into to slow the plane's speed.
In 2004, a Piper Cherokee crashed into the roof of an auto body
shop shortly after takeoff, killing two people on the plane and
critically injuring a third. And in 1997, a new pilot died when he
crashed his Beechcraft Skipper 77 into a tree near the airport just
National Transportation Safety Board records show that Cessna
421s have been involved in 12 fatal accidents since 2004.