- By Alexandra Seltzer Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
The plane looked like it was twirling.
LaRose Quince saw it in the sky, clearly out of control.
“I called 911,” said the 54-year-old Boynton Beach resident who was driving to church. “It was so low. I said, ‘They’re not going to make it.’ Then I saw a puff of smoke and said, ‘They’re gone.’
“I said a prayer for them in church.”
The twin-engine Cessna 335 crashed into a grassy area of John Prince Park about 10:40 a.m. Sunday, a couple hundred feet at most from the busy two eastbound lanes of Sixth Avenue South and just south of Palm Beach State College.
The plane tore down branches, but crashed without injuring anyone in the park.
Luz Rodriguez ran to the aircraft with two others.
“Is anybody there?” they yelled. And again, “Is anybody there?”
The flames were too intense.
“It was too late,” Rodriguez said. They had already heard what sounded like explosions.
Before it crashed, Rodriguez said, the plane was flying low and then tilted to one side.
Two people inside died, authorities said. Their names were not released Sunday.
The plane is registered to Nova Aviation LLC., according to records connected to the aircraft’s N-Number, which was released by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration -- which said the plane came from Key West -- will work to determine the cause of the crash that happened about one mile northeast of the Palm Beach County Park Airport in Lantana.
Among factors such as engine failure and pilot error, investigators will also look at the weather conditions when determining the cause of the crash. Around 10 a.m. in West Palm Beach it was 83 degrees with a southwest wind near 7 mph. And at 11 a.m. it was partly sunny, 84 degrees with a west wind at 6 mph. It was not raining anywhere in Palm Beach County at around 10:30 a.m., National Weather Service meteorologist Chuck Caracozza said.
Witnesses shared videos and photos of the plane engulfed in flames on social media. Phil Rubin, stopped at a light at Sixth Avenue South and Congress Avenue, uploaded a video of black smoke rising to the sky. Sandra Aguirre’s video showed the plane on the ground and in flames.
Despite the smoke and the fire, several witnesses ran toward the plane.
“There were people around trying to jump in and see if they could pull anyone out,” Aguirre said.
Investigators continued to snap photos of the scene and the plane’s remnants into the mid-afternoon hours. Some pieces were still smoking long after firefighters extinguished the flames. The aircraft’s front was entirely torn open, revealing one of the people inside still sitting upright. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies shooed away passers-by walking with children, trying to shield the young ones from the horror.
But they couldn’t protect everyone.
Cousins Osvaldo, Gustavo and Danny Campos, ages 12, 9 and 7 respectively, were in the park with Gustavo’s dad when they saw the plane flying low.
Osvaldo thought if they had a crowbar they could get the door open. But they couldn’t find anything like that. The explosions sounded like bombs, they said. They saw what looked like a radio and wanted to touch it, but then realized investigators would need the evidence.
“It was so heartbreaking,” Gustavo said.
The crash comes nearly three years after another plane wreck nearby took the lives of two people. Killed were the pilot of a Piper PA-28 Cherokee, Dan Shalloway, and a Palm Beach State student, Banny Galicia, who lived in a trailer into which Shalloway's plane plowed. The October 2015 crash happened just over a mile from Sunday's site.