South Florida is quickly becoming the unfriendly skies for small planes.
A small plane reported having engine trouble soon after take off from Lantana Airport and was headed back to the ground, when it landed short, crashing into another aircraft on the ground. Witnesses said the plane cartwheeled into the other plane before sliding on its belly until it crashed into a semitrailer truck.
Jack Howard Henderson, 68, and James Breazeal, 70, were killed in the accident.
The airport tragedy happens just a few weeks after a small plane crashed into a home in Fort Lauderdale after experiencing engine trouble. It too tried to return to the airport but didn't make it. The pilot died.
"With a little more altitude, he could have made it back," said Bruce Schnur, a pilot who witnessed the Lantana crash. "He almost made it back. Almost."
The accident could have been a lot worse. The plane could have crashed into a collection of helicopters nearby with pilots and passengers inside them.
Brad Coulson, 35, of Lake Worth, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel he was landing his helicopter and saw the aircraft take off from the airport's southeast runway and quickly bank westward. He said he quickly moved to keep his chopper in the air as he saw the plane tumbling towards him.
One helicopter pilot thinks Henderson purposely turned his plane into the ground to avoid crashing into people who were on the ground.
"It appeared to be headed right for us," said pilot Andrew Herrick, who was boarding a helicopter with five others. "I think the pilot saw us there and banked at the last moment. I really believe he jerked the plane on purpose, [thinking] it's either all of them or me. He sacrificed himself. He just turned into the ground."