THE EVERGLADES, FLA. (WSVN) – A group of friends, some who work as first responders, were on vacation when they spotted a plane crashing into the water and rescued the people on board.
A camping trip for three pilots, two Miami-Dade Police officers and a Hialeah firefighter turned into a rescue mission on Jan. 22 while they unpacked their canoes around 10 miles from Flamingo Park.
“I said, ‘Look guys, a sea plane,’ because I saw it coming down,” Miami-Dade Police Officer Raniel Castillo said, “but then, when he said, ‘No, that’s not a sea plane,’ at the same time, it’s a loud bang, a lot of noise. We’re running and calling 911 at the same time, and she couldn’t hear me, understand me. I was running so hard.”
The group of six watched the plane crash, and they said their training kicked in.
“When we got to the scene, I assessed everything,” Hialeah firefighter Roberto Bastori said. “As soon as I was approaching the airplane, I started voicing commands to them and asking, ‘Is everybody OK? How many people are on the plane? Do you guys see everybody?’ They all responded ‘Yes.’”
“I recognize four people in the water struggling,” Miami-Dade Police Officer Onestes Martinez said.
Gary Murphy, his wife and a friend were on board the aircraft. Pilot Jose Antonio Oliva, who worked search and rescue in his native Venezuela, said the group’s timing could not have been better.
“I always prepare extra survival equipment, extra first aid, bring the complete equipment,” Oliva said. “Thank God there was no injuries.”
“There was not a person in sight,” Bastori said. “Ten miles to the right of us, there was not a soul. Ten miles to the left of us, not a soul. Somehow, some way, God put us there for them.”
“In my 28 years of experience, I’ve never experienced a plane crash in my whole police career,” Castillo said, “and here it happens in East Cape when I’m off-duty.”
Those on board the plane that day said they are grateful to the first responders for their actions.
Angel Gonzalez and Ernesto Carmasas, the two other pilots in the group, said the plane would have been completely submerged minutes after the crash.