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Passengers Saved By Yacht After Plane Goes Down At Sea

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HAULOVER BEACH (CBSMiami) -- A group of good Samaritans rescued three people after a plane crashed off Haulover Beach Friday morning.

The Cessna 206 went down about 25 nautical miles out of Baker's Haulover Inlet around 10:30 a.m. but the pilot was able to bring the Cessna down smoothly.

"The pilot mentioned that he lost the motor. At that point, you know, there's a 7 to 1 ratio. So when he was dropping, he landed, and he did an excellent job and so did the captain of the vessel," said Ian Rivera, a passenger on the yacht that helped.

The captain of that vessel, a 105-foot yacht named "Free Spirit," saw the plane go down and made a bee line to the spot. He found the pilot and two passengers floating in a raft and took them on board.

"He laid the plane down in the water. He said it was very smooth. He said he had experience with a sea plane. So he laid it down, explained to the crew what to do, and he was able to open the life raft and get in it," said Eli Melcon with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. "They said by the time they noticed, the Free Spirit was right there helping them out."

Rescue crews met the yacht halfway in and sent paramedics on board.

"We made a decision based on sea conditions to go ahead and bring them in on the vessel they were currently on," said MDFR's Lt. Lisa Bullard.

The yacht pulled into Ft. Lauderdale two hours later. The yacht's owner explained they had just left the Bahamas and were in the right place at the right time.

"I really can't give you the odds but I praise God that we were right there," said Sandra Rasmussen, the yacht owner. "Because if we left a little bit earlier or a little bit later, we would not have seen it and we would not have been able to do what we did."

The plane's passengers were heading to the Bahamas to celebrate a birthday, a family member said.
Rescue crews were at Port Everglades waiting to take them to the hospital. All three victims were reportedly in good shape and had no injuries.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials said the plane had taken off from Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport headed to Bimini when they reported engine problems.

The FAA is investigating the incident.

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