The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida on September 13, 1999 · Page 12
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September 13, 1999

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The Palm Beach Post from West Palm Beach, Florida · Page 12

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West Palm Beach, Florida
Issue Date:
Monday, September 13, 1999
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Page 12
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12A THE PALM BEACH POST MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 1999 e it. Make itness: 1 was saying, v"1 T' "y ...... . , J WH.JH,''TMJy...,Vi.lA-,1 111 Ma T L Si i W ..'.K.. ....... . f-. , ill - if If 5 'at i - .?,. I JEAN HART HOWARDStaff Phptographer her home. A Continental Airlines van hauling a large chunk of the 737's engine attracts the attention of Jeaness Hillard of 818 El Vedado. The part fell a few blocks east of Boeing 737-300 ; PLANE I Street for breakfast," said Richard Pleasant, a West Palm Beach police officer. They don't miss a ; morning." ; The force of the explosion ; rattled windows on the ground 'and pierced the plane's tail with I large pieces of twisted metal. It ;left passengers and witnesses ,'wondering whether the plane ; could stay in the air. ; After the explosion, the lights ;in the fuselage flashed on and off ;as the plane shook and rattled, said Gould, whose seat was just 'behind the left wing. I "I felt like the whole plane was 'going to break apart," said Jean JGardikis, who was flying home to J Seattle via Houston. "After the explosion, it started flying funny j for awhile. I worried that the 1 plane just wasn't going to hold -together." ;A prayer for those aboard 1 Alfredo Matias watched the I scene after walking out the door ; of 440 El Vedado to see if it looked ;like a good day for fishing. Instead of clouds, Matias saw red I flames spitting out of the left en-Jgine of an airplane and engine parts plummeting toward him. J "Some of the pieces were jveering away and some were (coming straight for me," said JMatias, 45. "I looked at my boat J and thought I might dive under-jneath it." J As the 737 made a wide turn to the left, Matias said he prayed for 'those aboard. "I was saying, 'Make it Make Jit,' " Matias said. ! r David Smith was waiting for a J co-worker to bring tools to the iroof of The Palm Beach Post building, near the corner of Belvedere Road and South Dixie i Highway, when he saw the plane J take off. Smith said he has always jbeen intrigued that a machine so heavy can fly, so he routinely watches the planes take off and (land. "I was watching it climb and ; there was nothing wrong," Smith jsaid. Then I saw the flames; then -I saw the explosion; and then it Crocked the building. I ran to the .other side of the (roof) because I thought it was going to crash. Then it kept climbing and 1 knew it" was going to be all right." ; Smith worried, though, about the people on board. "I thought, 'Oh my God, there's a person sitting there watching that.' ... To watch that Explosion would have been awful." Passengers calm, silent ; Those aboard said most of the passengers remained calm and silent. ; "Itwasreallyveryquiet,"John jGardikis said. "I don't know whether a lot of people weren't awake because it was so early, or whether they were praying." ', Passengers said the pilot Ranked the plane gradually over Jhe water and turned back toward the airport. ' "The pilot did an outstanding job," said Jean Gardikis. "He didn't say anything over the intercom until it was over." " Fire trucks and emergency vehicles were waiting along the runway. Airport officials first considered wheeling portable stairways onto the tarmac, but then elected to have the plane towed to the gate. The tail of the 737 was pierced with a dozen large metal shards t some more than a foot long lhat had been thrown from the Exploding engine. Investigators food on the runway, shaking Collisions with birds cost millions A shower of debris Residents of the Hillcrest-EI Vedado neighborhood, just east of Palm Beach International Airport, awoke Sunday to find their yards and streets strewn with debris from a shattered aircraft engine. 'I thought someone was shooting out my windows,' said one resident. Specifications Wingspan: 94 ft. 4 in. Length: 119 ft. 7 in. Height: 36 ft. 6 in. Passengers: 128 Crew: 2 pilots4 attendants i""-"f r if 1 1- vr r Debris area s V PALM li Belvedere 'Rd. LjJBgKgere Rd Heaviest H 17 BEACH aw aeons I . m in ill--3" v Palm Beach International . Airport Southern Blvd. ' 4 N S. J-S7r Mil Jf-M r '1 ( I ICt W Ridgewood Dr. HermosasAve. ElPraloJ pETPrado I T PALM Cewidge U -'A : i BEACH 1 Summit Blvdl x! I f j? f i xJi l .si tet sg i m HUtoisaLavd. j fusesjwsi JL I rrr fc V ii 4I t mi Hn Wwnral P ! -I Monroe ur. . y.-v A t JlrWM MefoBlyaJL their heads as they photographed the damage. Residents 'so frightened' Within about 15 minutes of touching down, passengers were in the terminal making new travel plans. In the debris-scattered neighborhood east of the airport, across Interstate 95, residents were coming out of their homes about that time. "Everybody was out in the street in their underwear and pajamas," said Zaida Leon, who lives near Lake Avenue and Hillcrest Boulevard. "We were so frightened!" The airplane parts pelted a five-block swath. "Wow! There is just so much," said city police Lt. Greg Parkinson, who walked the neighborhood marking places were debris fell with fluorescent paint. "Some of the pieces are as small as a quarter-inch and some as large as a car hood." One metal piece struck so hard on Parker Avenue that it gouged the asphalt, he said. The parts damaged at least five vehicles, punctured awnings and riddled rooftops. The flight was one of two operated by Continental on Sunday between PBIA and Houston, company officials said. The plane was about 35 people below capacity, said spokeswoman Julie Gardner. Continental bused most of the passengers to Miami to catch another flight to Houston. Some passengers, like Gould, were stuck at PBIA until the 6 p.m. Continental flight to Houston. Spends the day at PBIA Charlie Fowler of Stuart put his son Ezra on Flight 1933 at 7 a.m. and then drove home. By the time he arrived, he learned of the flight's problems and drove back to PBIA. Source: Post staff research TIM BRIHONStaff Artist By Dan Moffett and A. Scharahorst , Palm Beach Post Staff Writers For all their technological advances, air safety specialists still rely on primitive means to deal with the danger that is as old as flight birds. ; At Palm Beach International Airport, operations officers patrol the runways firing starter's pistols loaded with "bird bombs" cartridges that explode like cherry bombs and frighten feathj-ered interlopers away. Plastic owls are mounted atop gate enr trances as further deterrent j Collisions with birds are a multimillion-dollar problem, inf volving about 2,420 planes a yeaf in the United States (an average of six strikes occur each day) and causing at least $48 million id damage to aircraft since 1991. J Investigators suspect a bird was sucked into the jet engine of Continental Flight 1933 early Sunday morning, forcing an emergency landing at PBIA. ; Birds are drawn naturally to airports, which offer insect-filled grasses, convenient water sup plies and protection from predators. ; Most bird strikes occur on landing and takeoffs; 55 percent of collisions are below 100 feet ; In Florida, encounters with large buzzards or ibis are among the most feared by pilots. Flocks of 20-inch cattle egrets have fed in the grass between PBIA runway$ for years, worrying airport officials, i : i . , . 7 v. i ' v jl S "I called the airline and asked them what was going on. All they told me was that the plane had left on time," Fowler said. "I had to come all the way back to learn that my son had been put on a bus to Miami." Gould couldn't find a seat on another flight or with another carrier, so she was forced to spend the day at PBIA until the evening flight "I asked the ticket agent if I could have a voucher for a meal," Gould said. "She said, 'OK, here's one for $5.' I said, 'Five dollars?' Then she asked another agent if it was OK to make it 8, which they finally did. They scare you to death then offer you an $8 meal." Staff writer Bill Douthat and database editor Christine Stapleton contributed to this story. Staff researcher Lynne Palombo contributed to this report. LANNIS WATERSStaff Photographer Large pieces of the engine pierce the plane's tail. CvjWl Explosion revives concerns about overflights 7 thought somebody was shooting at me. I got scared so I fell to my knees and tried to crawl under the car. ' ;.. i. ERLINDA CHAMORRO Resident , w'Fb ft fa " - t DEBRIS From 1A car in the driveway of her Hillcrest Boulevard home when she heard metal striking the hood. "I thought somebody was shooting at me," said Chamorro, 52. "I got scared so I fell to my knees and tried to crawl under the car," she said, displaying a bleeding gash on her left knee. A block north on El Vedado, Alfredo Matias saw the explosion. Flames shot out from the bottom of the left engine, he said. "When you see something like that you feel like somebody is going to die," Matias said. Then he saw shrapnel aiming for his street and realized the danger was more personal. "He told me he didn't know whether to stand where he was or to run," said Richard Pleasant, a West Palm Beach police officer. This is Ground Zero' jThe explosion and debris striking plucking small shards from the ground like scattered pennies, while Continental employees drove the streets loading large chunks of the engine into the back of a van. ; "I don't have room in that van for any more large airplane parts," groaned one Continental ramp worker when police told him that another, piece had been located down the street. Nonetheless, he and a coworker, sporting a "Work hard, fly right" T-shirt, took off in search of more debris. ; Add another feather to the cap Former neighbor Frank Perdomo wandered the area near his parents' house, near Hillcrest and Lake, plucking small metal pieces from tile porches, car roofs and from between blades of grass. ; This will be a feather in the cap for the anti-airport people," Perdomo said. "But most of them have moved away already." a Staff writer A Scharnhorst contributed to this story. " ' - 6, '.. . I; rooftops woke Maria Nodarse on Avenida Alegre. "It was horrible," Nodarse said. "The beds were shaking and the whole house trembled." like many of her neighbors, Nodarse said the close call should revive neighborhood concerns about the peril of overflights. "One day there is going to be a big accident" she said. "The city should finish buying this area out" In 1988, the city purchased 363 homes in the Hillcrest neighborhood west of Parker Avenue as part of an agreement to open a new terminal at the airport Homes east of Parker were not included in the deal. "This is Ground Zero," said Christopher Erikson, who has lived on El Vedado since 1951. In the driveway, his pal Richard Jones picked up a 4-pound metal part that landed directly on the windshield, shattering it Jones, who was visiting Erickson, said he thought the car had been vandalized until he heard about the airplane explosion. Picking up the pieces As neighbors checked for damage, police marked spots where debris fell with yellow flags. Grass and asphalt embedded with large pieces were stained fluorescent orange. Some of the shrapnel was as large as arched slices of sewer culvert; others, small and twisted, were the size of a dime. Police and fire officials wandered through the neighborhood 4 . J JEAN HART HOWARDStaff Photographer JAest Palm Beach crime scene police officer David P'Andria lifts up a piece of engine bearing that fell iri fron of a home on Avenida Alegre.

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