A single-engine plane executed an emergency landing on the Flagler Beach bridge at 7:50 this evening. The plane either was on fire or caught fire after it landed. Two people aboard escaped injuries.
The occupants were pilot Stevan Locki, 35, of Fort Lauderdale (that was the spelling of the name authorities provided) and Brandi Lee Bishop, 34, of Miami.
A small dog was also among the occupants, in its own kennel. The dog was also uninjured.
“As they were climbing out is when the fire was coming into the cockpit,” Lt. Dusty Snyder of the Flagler Beach Fire Department said. Snyder was in command of the fire scene, which he suppressed with firefighters Alan Forehand and Jimmy Conroy, one of the newest department recruits. Flagler County’s Engine 92 assisted, particularly with water (there are no hydrants on the bridge), and Rescue 11 stood by, but was not needed.
The occupants “self-extricated,” Snyder said.
Flagler County Fire Rescue Capt. Jamie Burnsed took the pilot and the passenger to safety at the eastern foot of the bridge. Their names are not yet released.
The plane landed on the eastbound lanes of the bridge, toward the mainland, and ended up facing southeast when it came to a final rest.
The plane is a single-engine Mooney with retractable gear. It had flown from Georgia to Flagler’s airport. Problems developed son after it took off from Flagler again.
It is not yet clear why specifically the plane was forced to make an emergency landing. Traffic was not impeded. “They smelled smoke and that’s what prompted the landing,” Sgt. David Acieri of the Flagler Beach police said.
“There’s no injuries, everyone is fine, FHP is going to do the actual investigation,” Acieri said, referring to the Florida Highway Patrol.
An FHP investigator reported overnight: “During my interview with Mr. Locki, he stated that after refueling at Flagler Airport, the aircraft begun to lose all power as his engine and all electronics on board failed while in mid flight. The pilot stated that he had no choice but to land the aircraft on the roadway as traffic was clear prior to landing.”
The plane at one point was engulfed in flames, after it was on the ground. “When I came up I just saw the flames, they were putting it out,” said Flagler County Sheriff’s Sgt. Kim Davis, referring to the Flagler Beach Fire Department, which handled the fire swiftly.
“The cockpit itself was fully engulfed,” Snyder said.
Neither occupant of the plane had to be transported to a hospital. A man and a woman were the plane’s occupants.
“There was a good knockdown on the fire,” Flagler Beach Fire Chief Bobby Pace said, “One of the bigger concerns was fuel went down into the drain, which the guys are flushing out with foam.”
Gregg Shugg, a Flagler Beach pilot who specializes in gliders, was near the scene of the forced landing, observing the circumstances. He said the pilot “did an amazing job” brining the plane down, likely with traffic, going westbound. “Given the choice, that’s the only choice I’d have taken.” He said the pilot would have to calculate a landing between light poles, the bridge’s concrete median, electric wires, and of course traffic.
The National Transportation Safety Board will take possession of the plane Monday morning and conduct a crash investigation, which usually takes months, with a preliminary report released first, then a final report.
The Federal Aviation Administration release the following statement: “A Mooney M20C made an emergency landing on State Road 100 in Palm Coast, FL tonight at 7:55 pm. The pilot reported engine problems. The aircraft departed the Flagler Executive Airport, Palm Coast FL and was going to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, Fort Lauderdale.”