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Plane Slams Into Home; Two Killed

Man Helps Grandmother Escape In Pines

The Miami Herald

August 14, 1999


By Neil Reisner, Hannah Sampson, Steve Harrison and Jennifer Babson

  The pilot and a passenger were killed when a single-engine plane crashed into a Pembroke Pines house Friday, destroying the front end of the property and shattering the calm of a family's quiet evening at home.

  ``When the plane crashed, it sounded like a lightning bolt hit the house. I just got my grandma out as fast as I could,'' said Justin Alvarez, 24, who was in his room playing a video game when the plane came down. ``I knew one was going to crash here sooner or later.''

  Alvarez's grandmother, Frances Alvarez, 74, who has arthritis, was in the living room on a recliner, watching TV. Justin hurriedly helped her into her wheelchair and out of the burning house to safety.

  The single-engine, four-passenger Piper Cherokee 140, burst into flames after it hit the house at 7051 SW 12th St. at about 6 p.m. It shattered the front end and roof of the beige house with pink trim where the family had lived for 10 years. A compact Ford station wagon in the driveway also was destroyed.

  Alvarez's brother, Eric, 19, was in his room listening to music, and stepfather Carlos Borrego was in the master bedroom, when they heard the crash.

  ``I was listening to Ricky Martin,'' he said. ``It was like you're in the movie theater and there's a huge noise and the whole theater shakes.''

  Three others who live in the house - Fortunata Borrego; her son Manny Borrego, 14; and a cousin, Deven Hernandez - were not at home. Manny was riding his purple bicycle in the neighborhood and learned of the crash from a friend's mother.

  The victims of the crash had not been identified late Friday.

  The 30-year-old aircraft is owned by Rubin & Rubin, a Miami law firm, according to aircraft registration records. The firm is run by husband and wife Andrew S. Rubin and Debra O. Rubin. Neighbors said Friday night that the Rubins were not at home; telephone calls to their home were not answered.


`It's rubble'


``There's nothing left of the plane, it's rubble,'' said Maryann Flanagan, spokeswoman for the Pembroke Pines Police Department. ``If there's anyone in there, they're under the rubble.''

  The low-winged plane manufactured in 1969 seats four passengers and is a popular recreational aircraft.

  The National Transportation Safety Board is seeking to determine the cause of the crash and the Broward County Medical Examiner was on the scene late Friday night.

  Medical workers removed one gray body bag from the scene at about 8:45 p.m. An hour later, they removed what appeared to be another.

  Jorge Prellezo, NTSB regional director, said the pilot filed a flight plan indicating the plane was headed to Spanish Cay in the Bahamas and would be carrying a passenger. The flight would have taken 11/2 hours.


Takeoff at 5:45 p.m.


James Reynolds, spokesman for the Broward County airports, said the plane took off from North Perry at about 5:45 p.m., apparently without difficulty, ``but something went badly wrong.''

  The Borrego-Alvarez's Shar-pei puppy apparently died in the fire. But Justin Alvarez was able to go into the house about an hour after the crash to rescue his slightly burned, but otherwise unharmed, albino Burmese python, Snake Eyes.

  Residents of Boulevard Heights, a quiet neighborhood of '60s-vintage single-family ranch homes off Pines Boulevard near Southwest 71st Avenue, said they could tell the aircraft was in trouble.

Buck Timperio, was weeding in his yard at 7110 13th St.

  ``I heard this plane sputter and I looked up. Then I saw the nose go down a little bit,'' he said. ``It dipped three times. The third time it went all the way down. There was a noise like a sonic boom.''

Brian Hay, staying with a friend next door, was at the back door when he heard the crash. He rushed to get Frances Alvarez out of harm's way.

  ``I heard someone say, `Help me! Help me!', and there was an old lady in a wheelchair,'' he said. ``She was shaking and very nervous. . . .I saw fire everywhere.''

  Frances Alvarez was in stable condition last night at Memorial West Hospital.


Neighbors' concerns


  Diane Jansen, a real estate agent who lives in the neighborhood, said the nearby airport used by recreational pilots, banner-towing planes and student flyers gives residents constant concern.

  ``These incidents keep happening and nothing is ever done about it. There's not enough room if you have a problem to ditch an aircraft. Whose house is it going to be next?'' she said. ```We are begging the city officials to please help us curb the danger of the airport, for our children's sake.''

  Deborah Lathorp, who lives on 16th Street, has chairs out on her porch where she watches low-flying aircraft go by every day.

  ``I saw a plane almost crash into my house six months ago,'' she said. ``I had nightmares for weeks.''

  But Reynolds, the airport spokesman, noted that the airport was built long before the houses.

``When the airport was built, this was all cow pastures,'' he said.


Red Cross on scene


  The extended Borrego family was receiving help from emergency service workers with the Broward Chapter of the American Red Cross.

  ``We are going to be helping the family with their immediate needs: food, shelter and medical supplies,'' said Leila Haddad, an organization spokeswoman.

  The Red Cross will lodge the family in a hotel for up to 45 days and help them find another place to live.

  Specially trained Red Cross mental health counselors will be in the neighborhood, as well, especially to work with children who might be upset by the calamity.

  The Borrego family, meanwhile faced the task of reconstructing their lives.

  Manny Alvarez said his mother has been crying the whole time.

  ``My dad was crying too,'' Manny Alvarez said, ``and he never cries.''


Herald Staff Writers Johnny Diaz, Connie Piloto and David Green contributed to this report.





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