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Humanitarian Flight Crashes into Florida Backyard

CLEARWATER, Fla. - A small plane carrying humanitarian aid to Haiti hit the roof of a Florida Gulf Coast home before crashing in the backyard, but no one suffered life threatening injuries, officials said.

The plane departed from Clearwater Airpark Sunday morning and struggled to gain altitude, Dennis Roper, chairman of the airpark's advisory board said. Neighbors described hearing the plane fly overhead and then a loud crashing sound, followed by plumes of smoke that filled the community.

Six people were inside the home, including three young children. All escaped safely. No one inside the plane is believe to have suffered life threatening injuries, Elizabeth Watts, a public safety information officer said.

"It's just a miracle that everybody survived," Roper said.

The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane was a Piper PA-46. According to Roper, the pilot filled the light aircraft with 96 gallons of fuel and boxes of relief supplies.

He is believed to have been en route to Haiti, Roper said.

The National Transportation Safety Board was called to investigate the crash.

Roper said the plane lost altitude after taking off and that the pilot struggled to get the plane under control. He wouldn't speculate on the cause, but noted it was a hot day and that airplanes perform differently in higher temperatures.

The plane crash sent plumes of smoke into the neighborhood, startling residents. Gordon White, who lives near the crash site, said he heard the plane flying overhead and then the sound of a large boom.

"All of a sudden the whole neighborhood was engulfed in smoke," White said.

When firefighters arrived, they found fire coming from the home's attic.

The pilot, identified by Clearwater officials as Ernesto Gonzalez, 48, and passenger Daisy Schneider, 16, suffered non-life threatening injuries. Another passenger, Charles Uslander, 56, was transported to Bayfront Medical Center as a trauma alert, but authorities do not believe his injuries are life threatening.

Authorities say the Red Cross has been notified to help dislocated residents.
 



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