A woman who was with her husband when their small plane crashed in northwest Broward County was released from the hospital Monday as her husband's condition improved.
Sonia McKenzie was treated and released from Broward Health North following the Sunday plane crash, hospital officials said. Her husband, 52-year-old Kenneth McKenzie, was in good condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
"At 500 feet he said 'Sonia, pray,' so we prayed and God helped us and we survived," she said after her release from the hospital. "There was no panic, we were completely calm. I don't quite understand why, I guess because panic doesn't help. If I started screaming that was gonna help no one."
Broward Sheriff's Office Officials said Kenneth McKenzie and his wife were on their way to Virginia and had run into engine trouble shortly after take off from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
The airport's tower lost contact with the plane around 10:45 a.m. Sunday. They crashed in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, just west of the end of Loxahatchee Road in the Parkland area.
"He declared a mayday, and then we landed in the Everglades," Sonia McKenzie said. ""We chose a dirt road that had no power lines next to it and no housing, not populated at all. He executed a perfect emergency landing, he had the door ready to go, he did it all perfectly, He's a really good pilot, he did awesome."
First responders said the couple escaped the fiery crash on their own.
"He, like any good pilot, was looking for a place to put this plane down and chose an access road that west of the Sawgrass Expressway in the Everglades, just south of Loxahatchee Road," BSO spokesman Mike Jachles said.
"As soon as we landed flames were all about us, he cracked the door open, he jumped out, he reached back and said 'we have to get out,' so I quickly undid my seat belt and he grabbed me and we clambered across the wing, there were flames now, and then across the rocks, so we got a bit scraped up," Sonia McKenzie said. "He says 'jump in the canal,' in case were were on fire or in case the plane exploded was my thinking why he said that, so we went in the canal and we were there a couple minutes and then I started to think about alligators and we crawled up on the bank and got a safe distance away from the aircraft."
Kenneth McKenzie, the former COO of Spirit Airlines who currently works for Airbus, suffered severe burns but is expected to recover.
"The whole Airbus team is fully supportive of Ken and his family, and we look forward to his full recovery," the company said in a statement Monday.
Sonia McKenzie told investigators the plane's oil pressure dropped and the engine failed. Federal investigators are looking into the exact cause of the crash.