Several planes buzzed overhead as Susan Crockett was comforted by family and friends Saturday afternoon in front of what used to be her home at 22 Utica Path, in the Seminole Woods section of Palm Coast.
Just 24 hours prior, Crockett was getting ready to leave her house around 2:20 p.m. Friday to run some errands when disaster struck. A Bonanza H35 occupied by three passengers fell out of the sky above and plummeted through Crockett’s roof.
Officials with the Florida Highway Patrol said Michael Anders, 57, of Albany, Ky., was piloting the plane, which was headed from Fort Pierce to Knoxville, Tenn. He called in to report a vibration in the propeller few minutes earlier.
Air controllers with Daytona Approach attempted to divert the plane to the Flagler County Airport, but the plane crashed about one mile east of the airport, killing Anders, Duane Shaw, 59, of Albany. Ky., and Charissee Peoples, 42, of Indianapolis.
Within minutes, emergency vehicles and personnel were on scene in Seminole Woods.
Crockett, however, was able to narrowly escape the fiery catastrophe through a window. Standing in front of her home Saturday afternoon, Crockett praised God for still being alive to tell her story.
“I had to really think, like, am I in a movie?” she said. “I didn’t know what was going on. I’m on the phone with my daughter ... and there’s a plane in the middle of my house. ... When I opened the bedroom door, flames came in, and I knew I couldn’t go out that way. I went back to the window and just said (I’ll) take my chances with the fire that was outside. I pushed the screen out and jumped out and ran around to the front.”
Crockett was in the home alone when the plane struck. She said her daughter, Jessica, decided to head back to college at the University of Florida earlier than normal. She left on Sunday, even though classes weren’t scheduled to begin for another week.
“Jessica would’ve been on that bed that’s charred and mangled,” Crockett said, as she glanced over at her daughter.
Crockett also said she usually babysits her grandson, but she decided to let him stay in daycare that day. Another sign that God was on her side, she said.
Pieces of the crash are beginning to come together for investigators. Officials from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board continued to work the scene Saturday afternoon.
Terry Duprie, lead investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, confirmed the plane was in fact diverted to the Flagler County Airport because of mechanical trouble.
“Again, I’m not going to speculate or analyze or try to figure out what exactly happened,” Duprie said. “But we are here to get that perishable evidence and make sure we document this as well as we can. Hopefully we can do everything we can to come up with some good safety recommendations to keep something like this from happening again.”
While most of the plane was incinerated in the crash, investigators hoped to collect some perishable evidence, such as electronic data. Parts of the plane's engine, propeller and a wheel were also collected. Remnants of the plane will be stored at the Flagler County Airport as the investigation continues, which could take up to one year before cause of crash is determined, officials said.
Lack of damage to trees in the area indicates the plane fell in more of a nosedive, Duprie said.
“I will say that it’s a fairly confined area, so that typically leans to more of a steeper approach, steeper angle,” he said.
Weather is also believed to be a factor.
A preliminary report would be released in about 10 days online at www.NTSB.gov.
Utica Path remained closed to traffic Saturday as investigators continued to work.
Jeff Sheeley, who lives on Utica Path, said he heard a loud noise and then heard sirens shortly after the plane went through the roof of the home Friday afternoon.
When he ran outside, he said the house was engulfed in flames as high as the tree line.
“I felt the rumble in the ground when it hit, and then the home was fully engulfed in flames,” Sheeley said.
While the Seminole Woods neighborhood is in shock, a community in Albany, Ky., mourns a loss of an educational pioneer.
Friday was Anders’ 57th birthday.
Randy Speck, who lives in the same town of Albany, Ky., said Anders was a popular high school teacher at Clinton County High School, where he taught Spanish, golf and chess.
Speck said the community has been impacted by the loss of a popular educator.
“Michael Anders was extremely popular among all students at our high school, as well as throughout the community,” Speck said. “Students are in mourning. Today, they are praising him by saying that he not only taught them Spanish, golf or chess, he also taught them about life. It will take these students a long time to get over his death.”
Anders lived at Spring Creek Airport, in Albany. (A Facebook memorial page in honor of Anders has been set up here. The page collected more than 400 "likes" in about five hours.)
Crockett’s car continued to sit idle in her driveway Saturday. It’s drivable, but she said the keys were somewhere in the house. She was planning to go to the dealership on Monday to try and get a spare set.
“If people don’t believe there’s a God, they better start believing,” Crockett said. “I got out without a scratch on me. I have a little bruise from taking a tumble through the window. There’s no way anyone else should've got out of there, but God has other plans for me.”
Crockett, who is a member of Mount Calvary Baptist Church, said she was planning to attend church on Sunday.
Email Andrew O'Brien at [email protected].