Fog Forces Helicopter to Land in Cooper City Strip Mall Parking Lot

Chopper pilot forced to land in middle of parking lot

A helicopter pilot was forced to land in the middle of a Cooper City strip mall parking lot early Wednesday after heavy fog blocked his visibility.

Paul Appleton was piloting his Robinson R- 22 helicopter with his passenger, Javier Romera, when they were forced to do a precautionary landing at the parking lot in the 5800 block of South Flamingo Road due to the heavy fog.

Appleton and Romera, a Spaniard who also has his pilot's license, had taken a ride over South Beach and Government Cut. They stopped at Tamiami Executive Airport for gas, took off around 12:10 a.m. and were headed back to Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport when the clouds got too close for comfort.

"You can get into trouble in a second," Appleton said of his decision to land in the parking lot.

They landed without incident and waited for fog to clear up before they left the parking lot around 8 a.m.  to make their way to the airport, which is about 13 and a half miles from the strip mall.

The incident wasn't Appleton's first run-in with problems in the air. Two years ago, on Super Bowl Sunday, he was flying over SunLife Stadium when a turkey vulture flew into his windshield. He landed and the bird flew off leaving him with just a scratch.

Appleton, a Cleveland firefighter and snowbird, said he has been flying since 1999 and added he is "lucky in unlucky situations."

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