On Saturday, December 1st, 2018, a small Cessna 335 took off from the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, piloted by flight 51-year-old flight instructor Eladio Marquez, who had one passenger. Shortly after getting up in the air, however, Marquez reported to air traffic control that there was a fire in the left engine.
Unfortunately, however, there was little air traffic control could do to help Marquez and his passenger quench the flames while in the air, and the little plane crash-landed at about 1:30 pm and skidded down a street in Fort Lauderdale before hitting a building and exploding in flames. Both Marquez and his passenger died in the crash.
The warehouse building the plane hit was home to an autism center, which, at the time, contained eight teachers and five children. When the plane hit, the roof collapsed, and the people inside were enveloped in a cloud of black smoke from the fire. The front door went up in flames and was blocked by debris, leaving the occupants to find an escape route elsewhere.
The teachers, however, were able to spring into action quickly enough to keep everyone safe. Only one adult was harmed while ushering the children to safety, and she was thankfully not injured badly enough to be hospitalized.
“They acted like heroes. They sure did. We are very thankful,” said Claudia Axelrod, Positive Behavior Supports Corp. regional director. Her students will be able to get counseling following the traumatic events that unfolded on Saturday.
The building was heavily damaged by the crash and subsequent explosion of fire, but that’s the least of the worries at this time, as a community—including Marquez’s widow and her son—mourns the loss of this great pilot and his passenger, who has not been named.
The cause of the crash and the plane’s recent maintenance work is under investigation, but it’s likely that we won’t have an answer on this issue for several months.
Watch the video below to see the CCTV footage from a nearby business, H & J Electronics International Inc., showing the moment the plane hit the building.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?