Florida: small plane crash

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June 13 — One person was killed and two others were seriously injured Wednesday night when a small plane crashed into an exit ramp on Interstate 95 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., local media reported.

The South Florida Sun Sentinel, a Fort Lauderdale newspaper, reported on its Web site that the twin-engine Beechcraft King Air plane was en route from Venezuela when it crashed at 9:25 p.m. ET. It quoted airport officials as saying Jose S. Nunez Gomez, of Venezuela, owned the plane and was usually the pilot.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), June 14, 2001


Miami Herald

Published Saturday, June 16, 2001

Fatal flight didn't stop to refuel in Bahamas

BY STEVE HARRISON sharrison@herald.com

The Beech King Air C90B that crashed on approach to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport on Wednesday night, killing a Venezuelan businessman, was flying nonstop from Caracas to Florida and did not land for fuel in the Bahamas, the National Transportation Safety Board said Friday.

That bolsters the NTSB's preliminary theory that the plane ran out of fuel 1,700 feet short of Runway 9R. José Santiago Nuñez Gomez, the pilot, made the trip monthly and sometimes stopped in Nassau for fuel.

``Occasionally, he stopped in the Bahamas, but sometimes he didn't,'' said Jorge Prellezo, head of the NTSB's Southeast Region in Miami. ``He's not new to that flight. We believe he ran out of gas, but we can't lock in one particular area for sure.''

A direct flight from Maiquetia airport in Caracas to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International is 1,383 miles. The plane's tank holds enough fuel for the plane to fly 1,458 miles.

But weather and flying with more power to reach a destination sooner could use more fuel, Prellezo said.

The NTSB is studying the plane's fuel gauges and fuel lines, as well as Nuñez's comments to the control tower one minute before he crashed.

``He said he was having a small engine problem,'' Prellezo said. ``He said, `I need to get to the airport,' but he never said, `soon or now.' There was no sense of urgency.''

Investigators don't believe there was any bad weather en route that would have diverted the plane, but they are examining winds aloft to see if they could have slowed the plane, consuming more fuel.

Nuñez, 52, was in stable but guarded condition Friday afternoon at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood. Passenger Briceda Zapata, 33, asked the hospital not to release her status after being questioned by the media Thursday. She was recovering from broken bones and other injuries Thursday.

Celestino Martinez, 34, was killed. A CEO of his family's Caracas pipe manufacturing business, he was a pilot and was sitting in the co-pilot seat.

The plane's Pratt & Whitney engines -- now at a hangar at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport -- will likely be taken to a facility in Georgia or West Virginia to be studied.

The NTSB will issue a preliminary report next week, perhaps as early as Tuesday. A final report will come out in four or five months.

The Broward Sheriff's Office on Friday released 911 tapes immediately following the accident. Several frantic drivers called to alert police about the crash.

``I'm on I-95 between Griffin Road and Stirling Road and an airplane just crashed on the off-ramp,'' the first caller said.

``An airplane crashed on the off-ramp?'' the operator asked. ``Is it a little plane?''

``Yes, it's a little plane. It didn't blow up. But I'm sure there are some serious injuries on it.''

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), June 17, 2001.

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