Crash victims Mark Palmieri, Ross Allan shared love of choppers

Mark S. Palmieri and Ross V. Allan loved helicopters.

Palmieri flew them for Bravo Helicopters, the business he’d been building since 2006, after 22 years in the U.S. Coast Guard.

His four choppers rent by the hour to aerial photographers, land surveyors, sightseers and others seeking a birds-eye view of South Florida.

Allan, who got his pilot’s license at 16, had been flying and fixing helicopters for much of his working life. He served with Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue as a co-pilot and mechanic and on days off, maintained aircraft for clients like Bravo.

The morning of April 3, Allan put new rotor blades on Bravo’s Robinson R-44, something that his wife, Rosa, said he’d done “hundreds of times.’’

Then the two men took it up from Kendall-Tamiami Executive Airport to run a “track and balance’’ test.

Minutes later, about 4 p.m., eyewitnesses said they heard irregular engine sounds. Then the craft, with Palmieri at the controls, exploded, sending the tail section spinning away from the body, which crashed onto a warehouse parking lot at SW 124th Avenue and 130th Street.

The men, both 53, died at the fiery scene. Police and federal agencies are investigating.

Allan is the first Fire-Rescue pilot to die in a crash since the department starting flying in 1985, said Special Operations Division Chief Ray Barreto.

Allan joined the department as an aircraft technician in 1996 and qualified for co-pilot 2007. He “was a good man, a good technician and pilot, someone who loves his family and worked hard to support them,’’ Barreto said.

The department has two, $9 million Bell 412, jet-engine helicopters that usually fly search-and-rescue and trauma missions, and haul giant water buckets to Everglades fires, Barreto said. Allan was on the crew that maintains them.

He added that pilots liked flying with him because of his mechanical know-how, which offered “a sense of security. He brought that comfort level.’’

He leaves behind his wife Rosa, and four children: sons David and Gabriel, 24 and 18, daughters Shlomit and Jessica, 17 and 16. David works at Publix; the others attend Felix Varela High School.

A sister, Lisa Allan Ziemann, of Sidney, N.Y., also survives.

Rosita Carbonell met Allen when he was in Peru flying dangerous drug-interdiction missions as Maoist Shining Path guerillas waged war against the government.

She called him her “Prince Charming in cowboy boots.”

They married Nov. 7, 1987 –– six months after they met.

Allan had been the man of the family since the age of 9, when his father died, his wife said.

By 16, he was the assistant manager of a grocery store in the small, Catskills town of Sidney, N.Y., and was flying small planes.

“He could fly before he could drive,’’ Rosa Allan said.

The Allans spent their early married life in Louisiana, Texas and the Middle East, where Ross worked for helicopter companies. Their oldest son was born in Yemen.

Allan settled his family in Miami while he continued to work in Egypt, but just before their third child’s birth, he took a job with Miami-Dade’s mosquito control department.

From there he became a Fire-Rescue aircraft mechanic, and at age 47, decided to go through the fire academy.

She said that the day of his death began routinely, when he took the kids to Varela. As they always did, they called and texted throughout the day.

Ross Allen’s final communication with his family was a text at 3:50 p.m. to son Gabriel about junking an old car.

Ten minutes later, Allan and Palmieri crashed.

Even though Allan didn’t die in the line of duty or aboard a department helicopter, he’ll receive full department honors during ceremonies, including a helicopter flyby and bagpipers, on Friday.

Visitation for begins at 8 a.m. Friday at Memorial Plan Kendall, 7355 SW 117th Ave., followed by funeral services at 11 a.m.

Tributes continue at 2 p.m. at the firefighters’ union hall in Doral: 8100 NW 21st St.

Palmieri’s fellow “Coasties’’ took to social media after word of his death reached them.

Angel L. Martinez, now in federal law enforcement, met Palmieri at the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Miami in the 1980s, and they remained friends.

Palmieri retired from the Coast Guard as a chief aviation mechanical technician in 2001.

In an online tribute, Martinez called Palmieri “a man of his word,’’ and “one of the most industrious, driven, hardest working, self-starting persons to have ever walked the hangar decks of the busiest air-and-sea rescue unit in the world.

“He knew what he wanted and went for it, always pulled more than his weight, never backed out of any task,’’ even if he could have, because of dangerous weather conditions.

Not even a near-fatal crash two years ago could deter him, Martinez said.

“I asked if he was skittish after that, and he wasn’t.’’

Florida Powerboat Club president Stu Jones wrote about that incident on the club’s website, where he noted that Palmieri provided the choppers used in filming the club’s poker runs and the “Powerboating in Paradise” TV series.

Palmieri also flew rescue crews for the club.

“Mark has always been an outstanding pilot, focusing on safety and abiding by all FAA rules and regulations at all times,’’ Jones wrote.

He described “a strangely related incident just two years ago,’’ during which Palmieri survived a high-speed crash in the Everglades — in a Robinson R-44, a small helicopter that can cost up to $500,000.

Badly injured, he was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center in a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Bell 412 — the same kind of helicopter that Ross Allan maintained.

Palmieri is survived by longtime companion Carol Makin, who lived with him in Homestead, father Elvio in Chicago, mother Dorinne and sister Andrea near Orlando, and Makin’s son, Kyle.

Services for Palmieri were held Wednesday. He was buried with full military honors at Mount Peach Cemetery, St. Cloud.

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