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'It's A Miracle They're Both Alive': Fish Camp Owner On Plane Crash Victims

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - Two people were rushed to the hospital after a small plane went down in the Everglades.

It happened just before 11:30 p.m. Thursday west of U.S. 27 and Krome Avenue.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue was the first to reach the scene. A medic lowered from a helicopter spotted one person trapped under the twisted metal from the plane. He then spotted a second person who was also trapped, but alive, under the wreck and in knee-deep waters. A second medic was lowered to help move the wreckage. A Miami-Dade Fire Rescue airboat arrived and its crew helped free the two men who were trapped.

"We're in the swamp, six to seven-foot high sawgrass, four feet of water, and jagged metal," said Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Lt. Derrick Caballero. "Little by little we would lift up the wreckage and pull the victims out and get them free from the wreckage."

The U.S. Coast Guard also assisted by lowering one of the paramedics.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Special Operations Chief Jeff Suarez said "What happened last night is those once in a life time calls. We train for these calls hundreds of times a year with numerous crews. Fortunately, it doesn't happen that often but I am very glad that this had such a positive outcome."

The pilot and passenger of the Cessna 152 were then airlifted to Kendall Regional Medical Center where they were listed as stable.

A check of the FAA registry shows the plane was registered to Dean International, a flight school and aircraft rental company which operates out of Miami Executive Airport.

Last July, one of Dean International's students, Mark Ukaere from Nigeria, was killed when the Cessna 152 he was flying crashed in the Everglades.

Ukaere took off in the plane without telling anyone, according to flight school owner Ian Robert Dean. He speculated that Ukaere, who was flying at night, suffered spatial disorientation which he likened to flying in a black hole. He added that pilots not fully instrument-qualified can easily lose their bearings at night.

"The individual was qualified but he broke every single company policy," said Dean. "They're required to fly at night with two pilots on board."

Ukaere, a licensed pilot, was working on getting his instrument rating.

Marshall Jones owns Mack's Fish Camp. Some of the rescue boats took off last night from his docks. He strongly believes weather was a factor in the crash because he was out in his airboat in the middle of the same storm Thursday night.

"There was a blinding rain storm that came in, it was a small cell but very, very aggressive rainstorm," he said. "It's just an absolute miracle that they're both alive."

Jones said the uninhabited area near his camp is popular for pilot training flights.

"Three aircraft have gone down within a five square mile area in just the last two years, in that same area," he said.

Those who survived the crashes and other threats have to contend with harsh elements including mosquitoes, spiders, scorpions, snakes, and alligators.

"Both crash victims were extremely lucky that the responding agency was able to find them so fast," he said.

"The biggest thing is that if we hadn't found them we wouldn't have been able to extricate them from the wreckage," said Caballero.

The FAA will investigate the crash and the National Transportation Safety Board will try to determine what cause it.

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