ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – Miraculously, no one was injured when a small plane surveying damage from Nicole made an emergency landing late Monday morning at Anastasia State Park’s beach and then flipped, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
The incident happened shortly before 11:40 a.m. along the coastline just north of the St. Johns County Ocean Pier in St. Augustine Beach. Footage from the scene showed a yellow single-engine upside down in the surf and several onlookers on the shore.
According to a news release from FHP, the plane, which was traveling from West Palm, experienced engine failure while surveying beach erosion following Nicole. The engine sputtered twice, and on the third time, it shut off, troopers said. The Highway Patrol said the pilot, a 38-year-old Lake City man, was trying to make it to the Northeast Florida Regional Airport near St. Augustine but was unsuccessful and made the decision to land on the beach.
Upon approach, according to troopers, the pilot noticed people and veered to the right. Troopers said that the plane then landed along the shore and that’s when the waves overturned the plane.
When News4JAX spoke with the pilot, he seemed fine. The pilot, who did not wish to speak on camera, said what worried him about this emergency landing wasn’t the wind but the people out on the beach — especially since the engine had gone silent.
Joseph Cook said that’s what he witnessed.
“I had no clue at all,” Cook said. “Like I’m telling you, all I heard was a crash.”
The pilot said the plane taxied OK on the water before flipping upside down.
He landed between Cook and Julie and Don Zoog.
“He’s just so lucky to have survived this with no injuries. He even apologized to us,” said Julie Zoog. “I feel badly we were in his way. I didn’t think he was landing or I didn’t know what he was doing.”
St. Johns County Fire Rescue confirmed that the pilot was not hurt and that no other injuries were reported.
“How the heck did that happen?” Cook said. “I thought it was a miracle, seriously.”
The St. Augustine Fire Department and the St. Augustine Police Department were also among the agencies that responded to the scene.
Efforts began just before 12:30 p.m. to remove the plane from the beach. At last check, the trailer that was trying to pull the plane out of the surf was stuck in the sand.
It was not immediately clear where the plane will be heading next.