Plane Crashes in Fla. Residential Area

VERO BEACH, Fla. --

It was a lucky landing Friday afternoon for a student pilot and his instructor.

The two men, who have not been identified, were pulled out of a plane that crashed, by Indian River County Fire Rescue.

Witnesses said they heard the large crash at about 2:40 p.m. Officials said the pilot landed the 1979 twin-engine Piper Seneca PA-34-200T plane in a residential area just off 12th Street and 34th Avenue, near the Sun Villas subdivision.

The plane was on its way to the Vero Beach Municipal Airport and struck a tree less than 50 yards from several homes, officials confirmed Friday evening. The left wing of the twin-engine airplane dislodged. The plane's nose is nothing but twisted metal tangled in a tree.

Thad Gaskin, who lives nearby and happens to be a retired pilot, said he rushed out of his house to billows of smoke. He said he ran over, saw two men trapped inside and immediately called 911.

"They were pinned in there so tight that there was no way I could help them," Gaskin said. "My big concern was in case it caught on fire, there was no way you could help them."

Members of Paris Air, the owner of the aircraft, arrived at the scene and helped crews free the two men inside.

"The pilot and co-pilot were entrapped from the waist down where the dash had pushed on top of them," said Ed Prime, of IRCFR.

Firefighters handled a fuel spill from the plane and crews spent about 90 minutes extracting the two men.

Jeff Luther, of the IRCSO, said both patients were in stable condition as of Saturday afternoon. One was at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne and the other was brought to Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce.

"That pilot did one heck of a job setting that plane down where he did and surviving it," Gaskin said. "He was just doing what he ought to do, trying to get it on the ground, trying to break the speed."

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration arrived from Orlando to determine why the plane crash. There's still no exact cause.

The National Transportation Safety Board is putting together a recovery team to remove the aircraft.

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