Veteran pilot crash lands in Brandon, says he never panicked when engine went out

John Murray, his wife, and their dog walked away

BRANDON, Fla. - A bay area couple and their dog managed to walk away from a plane crash unharmed Friday evening.

John Murray and his wife, Phyllis, took off from Peter O'Knight Airport near downtown Tampa en route to Miami. The Cessna 182 experienced engine problems about 10 minutes into the trip.

Murray took aim for an empty field near Dew Bloom Road in Brandon.

"I just did what every pilot is trained to do," he said. "That's why they train you."

Murray, who has been flying for 50 years, was incredibly calm after the ordeal.

He said the the plane lost engine power around two thousand feet in the air. He said the entire plane was shaking and oil was leaking all over the windshield, blinding him.

Ten year old Mason Schwarz saw the plane going down from his after school club.

"I thought it was going to hit the large building over there," he said. "The propeller was stopped, and I went and saw it crash in the field."

The plane could have hit a number of buildings in the residential neighborhood.

Esmerlin Gomez had perhaps the best view, looking up while laying on his trampoline.

"It hit kind of hard. It did a nose dive down," he said. "It was going to hit the power lines and thank God it didn't."

Murray later told us avoiding the power lines was on the top of his mind.  Remember, he could barely see out of the cockpit.

"I was concerned, even though the field is a sizable field, that the power lines may have strung across it," he said. "So I tried to avoid those, and evidently did."

He did, but just barely.

That dive into the ground broke off the landing gear and badly damaged the front of the plane.

But somehow the Murrays -- even their dog, Gizmo -- walked away without a scratch.

To this veteran pilot, though, it seems like that's not good enough.

"I wish I could have made a nice landing, and I could have, if I could have seen better, perhaps," he said.

Hazmat crews spent most of Friday evening transferring fuel from the plane into drums so it could plug a leak. The FAA is investigating the accident.

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