FT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Piece by piece, crews pulled landing gear from the wreckage site where a plane had crashed into the backyard of a Pompano Beach home.
In the meantime, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is trying to figure out what brought the plane down on Monday causing it to clip two homes.
Leah Read, a senior safety investigator with the NTSB, said they are documenting the site including the impact marks, the aircraft itself and its engines so they can get an overall picture of the scene.
“Once we do that, we’re going to have a salvage crew come in,” she said. “They will recover the aircraft and take it to a secure location and we will continue on with our investigation.”
Read said they plan to interview the three people who were on the plane, who were critically injured, once their medical conditions allow for it.
Flight instructor Geoffrey White and two students, Sylvia Mena and Fernando Diaz, were in the Beech BE-76 practicing take-offs and landings at the nearby Pompano Beach Airpark when it crashed into a home at 925 NE 26nd Avenue, bounced into a neighboring backyard and burst into flames.
Warren Beck said he jumped into action once the crash happened.
“I ran between the houses, straight for the airplane engulfed yelling, is there anybody in the homes,”said Beck.
He said he tried to help Mena.
“Her skin was peeled off her, about four, five, six inches off her arms. She was going thru a lot,” said Beck. “What I did is picked her up and brought her in to the carport and we had her lay down in the carport and she had her head on my leg and I just held her.”
“She was okay,” he added. “She was talking to me, telling me things like, ‘thank you, thank you’.”
As for the pilot, Beck said he didn’t look very good.
“I’m pretty sure he got it the worst. When he was laying on the ground I tried to comfort him but he was in the most pain of the three,” said Beck. “I feel that I helped these people out. Like I said to my friends, God took these guys down to the ground and let me comfort them. That’s pretty much what I did, all I did was comfort them, and take care of them and just tell them everything is okay.”
Mena and the two males were taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s burn unit in critical condition.
“I know they were on take off and obviously something happened and that’s what we will hopefully determine here over the next few days,” said Read.
Read said they will be looking at a number of factors as they investigate the crash.
“I don’t want to jump to any conclusions. We want to talk with witnesses to find out what was the aircraft’s attitude on take off. Was it in a high pitch attitude, was it in a steep bank? How were the engines, was there an engine sound, did someone maybe hear one engine come back? I don’t have that information yet but those are the 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,” said Read.
Larry Ferris said he was washing his car along Harbour Drive when he heard a plane sputtering.
“It sputtered again, backfired and then I seen it take a nose dive into the back houses there and blow up. It was a huge fireball,” Ferris said. “I thought I was going to see dead people in the back yard.”
“It just was in trouble, sputtered and came straight down,” said Michelle Miller. “After that it was just a huge explosion.”
Read said she’s thankful that the plane didn’t seriously injure or kill anyone on the ground.
“I’m thankful it didn’t go into one of the houses itself. It’s in the back yard, so, things could have been worse,” said Read. “It’s great that there are not any other additional injuries.”
The plane belongs to the Florida Aviation Academy, which runs a flight school at the airpark. The same school owned a Cessna 172 that made an emergency landing west of Coral Springs last August.
According to FAA records, the certificate on the plane, like the registration for your car, expired at the end of February and the flight school was notified in advance.
FAA Spokesperson Kathleen Bergen told CBS4 News that the flight school reapplied about a month later, but the documents have not yet been processed. That is one of many issues investigators will look at in the investigation into this crash.
Aviation experts say without that certificate a plane is not supposed to fly.