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Texas pilot, passenger survive Gulf of Mexico crash

A pair of Texas men is lucky to be alive after the plane they occupied suffered a hard water landing. The aviation accident over the Gulf of Mexico involved fire, a smoky cockpit and a water rescue.

The plane had taken off from a Texas airport in Baytown. The experienced pilot had flown the Beechcraft 55 Baron more than a few times to Florida, the intended destination. Never before had the pilot encountered what he experienced off the Louisiana coast — a fire and a plane crash.

Two people, the pilot and a friend, were aboard the plane — 11,000 feet above the water — when "something" caught fire and filled the aircraft with smoke. The pilot acted quickly switching off the plane’s electronic controls and taking charge of what turned out to be a crash landing.

The men floated in the Gulf of Mexico, 28 miles from the coast, for several hours before being spotted by a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol aircraft. The accident victims did not report immediate injuries.

Baytown aviation experts who knew the men were shocked to learn of the crash, but admired how well the veteran pilot had responded to the emergency.

Reports did not indicate whether investigators found any clues to help determine the reason for the accident. The men on board did not seem to see exactly what caught fire before smoke obscured their vision.

Liability in a small plane crash can sometimes fall on a negligent pilot. In this case, it appears the pilot handled the unexpected situation as well as could be expected. No lives were lost and injuries seemed to be slight.

An examination of the aircraft — if investigators could retrieve it from the Gulf of Mexico — might tell whether the plane’s design or a part was defective. Proof of the aircraft or parts manufacturers’ carelessness could result in a civil lawsuit for damages.

Source: khou.com, "2 Baytown men rescued by Coast Guard after plane crash in Gulf," Sept. 21, 2012

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