Rob Ramirez was surrounded by houses, some just completed and others still under construction.
Piloting a plane that just lost power, Ramirez found the one spot that kept him alive and the new suburban-style homes intact.
“Fortunately I made it to a place where nobody else was hurt, but neighbors certainly were surprised,” Ramirez told CBS 4.
Towing an advertising banner, he ditched the powerless plane into a man-made lake near the new homes in Aventura Isles, a community rising south of Ives Dairy Road between Interstate 95 and U.S. 441. The plane was heading back to North Perry Airport in Pembroke Pines when it ran into trouble.
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After splashing down, Ramirez, who has been flying planes for 28 years, made his way out and calmly waded to shore.
“He made a great landing,” said an employee for Aerial Banners who refused to give her name. “He didn’t crash into any houses. He didn’t hurt himself. If he had an emergency, he did the right thing.”
Ramirez spent the afternoon talking to rescue personnel and investigators.
The company he flies for has a fleet of 20-plus planes that buzz around town towing banners that advertise events, nightclubs and restaurants. On Friday afternoon, Ramirez was pulling a banner advertising his own banner-plane company.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are looking into the crash, which swallowed the yellow plane and surprised the neighbors, some of whom just moved in and hadn’t yet unpacked their patio furniture from the wrapping.
“I was on the phone looking at the lake when it touched the water,” said witness Alvaro Psevoznik, who lives in the community. “It was really surprising.”
Psevoznik, who was in his dining room looking at the lake, saw the plane come down and crash, and told the person on the other end of the phone: “Dude, a plane just crashed into my backyard.”
Then he hung up and rushed outside to check on the pilot. He then took some pictures and posted them on Twitter.
Psevoznik said the pilot told him he ran out of gas and flew around looking for a safe place to land.
Ramirez was the only person on board the yellow Piper PA-25 when it went down near Northeast 193rd Street and Seventh Court, said Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the FAA.
Nearly 10 years ago, another plane went into the lake of a densely packed Northeast Miami-Dade neighborhood. An aging cargo plane avoided rows of condos and skidded into a lake. And the neighborhoods around North Perry Airport have seen small planes drop from the sky, crashing into lawns, parks and in some cases homes.
Miami-Dade Fire-Rescue got the call at 12:48 p.m. Friday of a small plane in the water, said spokeswoman Michelle Fayed. Rescue teams got to the scene quickly and found the dripping-wet pilot already out and safe.
“It was harder than I thought,” Ramirez said of his water landing. “You hear water is soft. It’s not, but thank God I was just able to land it wings level and everything worked out.”
CBS 4 contributed to this report.