3 people, dog injured in small plane crash in Opa-locka

Investigators find evidence of small fire at front of aircraft

By Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor

OPA-LOCKA, Fla. - Three people and a dog were injured Tuesday morning after a small plane crashed in Opa-locka.

Miami-Dade Aviation Department spokesman Greg Chin said a single-engine Cherokee PA-28 departed from Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport at 10:35 a.m., but soon after had to land in a nearby body of water.

A view from Sky 10 showed that the plane was upside down on its roof next to the water near the airport and a Tri-Rail station, causing some train delays.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said two men and a woman were being airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center.

The pilot, identified as James Webster, suffered a broken clavicle and nose. The passengers, a couple in their 70s, also suffered broken bones. Webster and Otto Wild were both listed in fair condition.

The dog, a 9-year-old Sherpard-Golden mix named Sugar, suffered a broken paw and small cuts to the head and was being treated at Broward Animal Hospital.

"It's like a child (with) no seat belt -- car gets in a crash, flips over, where's the child going to go? tumbling around in the  cab of the vehicle. Same thing happened in the airplane," Dr. Russell Bishop said. "Basically she has an abrasion between the eyes, small superficial, small wound on outside of wrist and broken carpal bone."

Witnesses told Local 10 News reporter Terrell Forney that the plane appeared to either be on fire or smoking before it crashed.

"It was on fire in the air and then it crashed down," one witness, Kimberly Green, said. "Once it hit the smoke stopped and then the guy with the gray shirt -- he ran to try to get the two other guys out, and then you see the dog run out of the plane… he couldn't get the lady out."

A few men also witnessed the crash and rushed over to help. Jose Batres, who works at a nearby warehouse, told Local 10 News that the woman appeared to suffer the most significant injuries.

"The husband pulled her from the leg and we go outside and take from the back and put (her) in the grass," he said.

Authorities said they saw signs of a small fire at the front of the aircraft upon arrival, but firefighters did not have to extinguish any flames.

The group was on their way to Bimini, where the couple and the pilot both have homes.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known.

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