The stench of death and charred remains — a large jar of Smucker’s jelly, an Aiwa speaker, two twin mattresses — hover over 105 Nor Joe Terrace like ominous clouds.
Amazingly, yellow crime scene tape, more than a year old, still chokes a neighborhood tree, a grim reminder of the horrific tragedy that claimed two lives.
The residents at Mar-Mak Colony Club still nervously look up at the sky when a plane flies over their working class mobile park home community, just east of the Lake Worth Drive-In on Lake Worth Road.
On Oct. 13, 2015, Banny Galicia, a 21-year-old Palm Beach State College student, was sleeping in her bedroom when a single-engine Piper PA-28 Cherokee piloted by Dan Shalloway, crashed into her trailer park home of nearly 11 years, engulfing it in flames more than 20 feet high.
Banny, who had a 3.0 GPA as a PBSC sophomore, who fed feral neighborhood cats, who loved cooking, never had a chance.
“One minute she was sleeping, the next, she’s dead,” Domingo Galicia, Banny’s father or “Papi,” told The Palm Beach Post last year while sifting through the burned wreckage that was once his daughter’s room. The only item salvageable from Banny’s room was a guitar she was learning to play.
The trailer was uninhabitable. The back was blown out in the fiery explosion.
Tears still flow: ‘She just can’t handle it’
A year after the 69-year-old Domingo lost his baby girl, he returned to the scene of the worst night of his life to recover some roofing supplies. Neighbors see him every few weeks. Sometimes he’s driving a red Dodge Ram. Other times he’s behind the wheel of a white work van.
On this October morning, Domingo is limping noticeably, moving slowly, the result of a dropped foot he said he suffered in the freak accident, which also took Shalloway’s life. Domingo, who emigrated from Guatemala in 2004 with Banny, chokes back tears when asked about that night. He pauses for five, almost 10 seconds before he can answer.
“I asked her, aren’t you supposed to be in school?” Domingo recalled in broken English. “She said, ‘I’m tired and need sleep.’”
That’s when Domingo started to cry and could no longer speak.
Marta Galicia, Banny’s 62-year-old mom, cries all the time and is barely able to function, the hole in her heart too vast, relatives say. She often called Banny her miracle baby since Marta was 40 when she found out she was pregnant, 15 years since her last child.
“She just can’t handle it,” Delmar Lopez, Marta’s cousin, said. “She’s always depressed. She’s not working. The family is devastated.”
Marta, who now lives with her 38-year-old-daughter, Juri, in Lake Worth, declined to talk to The Palm Beach Beach Post.
Juri, however, said her mom is doing better. But not much. Marta travels to Guatemala often to be closer to Banny, who is buried in the family’s ancestral town of La Democracia, a city of about 40,000 people in the district of Huehetenango.
Marta recently returned from Guatemala, Juri said.
“Only my mom knows the pain she feels about my sister,” Juri said. “We try not to talk about my sister a lot. It hurts too much.”
Back pain, blurred vision still affects neighbor
Since the accident, Domingo and Marta, married for years, have separated, family members say. The family on Jan. 7 filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court against Shalloway’s estate seeking an unspecified amount of monetary damages, according to Daniel Lustig, one of the West Palm Beach attorneys working on the case.
“It’s too early to determine what the amount will be,” Lustig said. “Banny was a light for all of them. This has been a tremendous blow to the family.”
Delmar Lopez lived in the trailer about 12 feet from the one owned by the Galicias. He saw the small, four-seat plane falling from the sky right toward his home where his 14-year-old son, Wilder, was sleeping, just like Banny.
“I crawled on the floor to grab my son and then I started seeing all this fire,” Lopez said. “All I could think about was my son.”
Wilder, who often played with Banny when they were little, didn’t hear the crash. But once he ran outside, he saw the fire and billowing black smoke.
“I started walking backward because I was scared,” Wilder said, barely above a whisper. “I thought a big plane hit our house.”
Lopez said he now suffers from blurred vision. He has back problems after pieces of the plane fell on him. He lives in Lake Worth now, in another mobile home park, his Mar-Mak Colony Club home destroyed beyond repair.
“Everything was burnt,” Lopez said.
Proximity to airport spooked some to leave
For the Galicia family, the wounds remain fresh, raw, too deep. Community residents are grieving as well.
Inside the mobile home park’s office, a large picture of a smiling Banny rests on the desk, placed there by the property manager, who only wanted The Palm Beach Post to use her first name, Lori.
“I have a daughter and I can’t even imagine how Banny’s mother and father feel,” Lori said. “If they come back here, they get to see that she’s not forgotten. It’s something you don’t get over.”
Lori said the accident brought the community of 115 homes — 90 of which are occupied — closer. Neighbors are looking out for each other more.
“Most people in here are hardworking, nice families,” Lori said. “This changed people’s perspective on life and how we take it for granted. Every minute counts so don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Luis Morales, an 18-year-old John I. Leonard High School senior who has lived in the community for a year, said not everyone could cope.
“Some people moved out,” he said. “Everyone is scared.”
Rogilio Santiago, 12, said he’s afraid.
“The same thing that happened to (Banny) could happen to any of us,” he said, clutching his mom’s hand.
Other aircraft have run into problems near the Palm Beach County Park Airport, or the Lantana Airport at Lantana Road and Congress Avenue is officially known and where Shalloway was trying to land.
As of last year, since 1982, the airport has been linked to 48 crashes involving 51 aircraft — not including the crash at the Mar-Mak, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Seventeen people were killed and one seriously injured during that time.
In January 2015, two helicopters collided over the airport. On Dec. 30, 2014, a helicopter crashed, killing one person and injuring another. In August of that same year, a man was hospitalized after he crashed when his single-engine, amateur built plane overshot the runway.
Four years ago, Timothy Johnson, Jr., died after his plane crashed into a row of trees near a picnic area at John Prince Park.
The airport, which turned 75 this year, hosts several training operations and does not have a manned control tower.
“You’re own your own,” Dave Freudenberg, a former Boca Raton City Council member and a small-plane pilot since 1992 told The Palm Beach Post last year.
What really happened? Detailed crash report not ready
The crash that killed Banny and Shalloway remains under investigation by the NTSB.
A preliminary report was issued, which briefly outlined what happened on the night of Oct. 13, 2015. A more detailed factual report and a probable cause report that includes the agency’s analysis, reason for the crash and any recommendations, have not been completed, said Eric Weiss, an NTSB spokesman.
Weiss couldn’t say when those final two reports will be finished.
What led Shalloway, a seasoned 64-year-old pilot and local engineer, to make a fatal turn into Banny’s bedroom may never be known as much of the evidence is likely burned up with the plane.
Aviation experts have suggested that something either went wrong with the plane or something happened to Shalloway.
In the preliminary report, the NTSB said Shalloway radioed he was three miles east of the airport and preparing to enter a “mid-field left downward leg” toward runway 15. Shalloway then radioed he was turning left. No other communications were received after that, the NTSB report said.
A witness, according to the report, saw the plane as it made the “S” turn, followed by a steep right 180-degree turn before descending into the mobile home park.
No readable cockpit instruments were recovered.
In the face of tragedies, the business of living must continue, even when a young girl’s bright light has been prematurely extinguished.
Lori, the Mar-Mak property manger, and mother of three adult children, doesn’t envy the Herculean task ahead of the Galicias.
“There’s no other love in the world like the love of your children,” she said, shaking her head, eyes welling up. “You don’t love anything or anyone like you do your kids. I don’t think the family will ever get over it.”
Staff writer Julio Poletti contributed to this report