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3 survive Jacksonville plane crash in Everglades

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BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – Two Jacksonville lawyers and their pilot survived when the firm's twin-engine airplane crashed Monday in the Everglades in western Broward County.

Robert Spohrer and Steve Browning
Robert Spohrer and Steve Browning

Robert Spohrer, founding partner of Spohrer and Dodd, and Steven Browning, another partner in the firm, were treated and released after the crash near U.S. Highway 27 in the Everglades. They both escaped without serious injury.

The pilot, whose name was not released but regularly flies for the firm, was pulled out of the cockpit conscious and remained hospitalized late Monday.

Miami television station and News4Jax partner WPLG was flying its helicopter to another news event when the pilot spotted the downed plane. The chopper landed briefly and a broadcast engineer helped the plane's pilot escape. Firefighters arrived a short time later and transported him to the hospital.

Records show the Piper PA-31-350 left Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport Monday morning. People at the law firm described this as a normal business trip and said the partners were to return to Jacksonville late Monday or Tuesday.

Their co-workers were thankful everyone survived and remain worried about the pilot.

VIDEO: What saved three in plane crash?

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News4Jax aviation expert Ed Booth said that within three minutes, the plane's altitude dropped to the ground from 2,300 feet, suggesting that the plane lost power and was gliding. 

"It appears the pilot did a masterful job of maintaining control of the airplane," Booth said. "The photographs I've seen indicate the pilot did a skilled job of keeping the airplane under control until ground impact, and that's the key in a situation like this ... It's obvious to me, the way the wreckage wound up, that the airplane impacted the ground, although hard it was under control."

Barry Newman, at Spohrer and Dodd, said they are lucky to have a safe and competent pilot who did everything he could to save the passengers.

"I think we were lucky to have the pilot we had who is an exceptional pilot and very safe and competent, so I'm sure he did everything he could to try and save this flight," Newman said.

Friends who celebrate the safety of those two partners at Spohrer and Dodd are saying prayers of healing for their friend, the pilot.

"These people were -- are my friends, and I'm praying for their full recovery," Booth said.

Booth has flown on that plane with the men involved in the accident.

"That airplane, it's a 1978 Piper Navajo. It's a twin engine, piston-powered eight-passenger what is known as a cabin class airplane," Booth said. "It's designed for comfortable long-range travel. I've flown in it a number of times. It's well-equipped, well-maintained, and it may be some time before we know what happened."

Newman and Spohrer told News4Jax their main concern is for their long-time friend, the pilot of the airplane, and for his recovery.


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