“The banner plane made contact with a high-rise building between the 16th and 17th floor,” said Chief Gollan on CBS4 News at Noon. He said the building was under construction and the plane fell to the pool deck.
“I am grateful that the pool deck is under construction it’s a beautiful day 80 degrees its sunny it’s the middle of the high season here in Fort Lauderdale there could have been 30 people hanging out on that pool deck and a plane could’ve landed on top of them,” Eshel said.
The building’s balconies and pool deck have been under construction for more than a year but the 18-story building is occupied.
Video: Fatal Banner Plane Crash Investigated
The hole left in the Fort Lauderdale high-rise building where a banner plane crashed on March 1, 2019. (CBS4)
“The gentlemen was just couple feet away from where the plane had made impact,” said Stephen Gollan, Battalion Fire Chief with Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue.
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Residents say they heard the crash around 11:55 a.m. then a loud boom, which is when the plane hit the 17th floor and fell to the pool deck.
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“We noticed that the plane was low and shaking a little bit and seconds later, we hear the crash,” said Tony Bonilla.
Witnesses said the plane was pulling a banner along the beach shortly before noon Friday. One witness said it appeared the banner got stuck at some point. Ken Criswell said it was clear the pilot was in trouble even though the engine was running.
“It was running but he just had no power,” Criswell said. “He couldn’t climb. I saw him when he was crossing A1A. And I could still the see banner in the air and then that quick, I knew this guy was going down.”
First responders from Fort Lauderdale arrived quickly. They said the plane hit the building around the 16th floor.
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Then the plane fell to the 2nd-floor pool deck where workers ran for safety. Investigators say there were more than 100 people in the building. Some told us they felt the building shake. Investigators said they need to make sure the building is safe.
“We have the building evacuated and evaluated for structural integrity,” said Stephen Gollan, Battalion Chief for Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue.
We looked up the tail number on the Piper PA-25 airplane. It comes back to a company called Aerial Banners in Pembroke Pines.
CBS 4 News contacted the owner of Aerial Banners, Bob Benyo, and he told CBS 4 News that they’re struggling to figure out why this plane crashed. He said the pilot should not have been this low when he was turning west.
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All in all, however, investigators say they’re grateful there weren’t more fatalities with the number of people on the pool deck.
“It’s a recipe for disaster when you have 20 individuals there that are just doing their job working,” Gollan said. “There’s no telling what could have happened.”
Investigators with the NTSB will be back Saturday morning to figure out how to remove the plane from the pool deck.
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