PALM SPRINGS, Fla. — The sound was like a bomb. A burst of flames erupted. A father couldn’t reach his sleeping daughter, whom he never would see alive again.
Domingo Galicia, who later learned a small plane crashed into the mobile park where he lives, had been outside and sprung to the door, screaming to his 21-year-old daughter as his trailer was swallowed by flames. She was home from her job and juggling college coursework and had grabbed a nap. “Banny! Banny!” her father said he screamed to her, the heat of the flames upon him.
Authorities confirmed Wednesday two people were killed — a pilot aboard the Piper Cherokee 180 and a woman on the ground — but have not released their names. Still, those who loved Banny Galicia said all hope was lost.
“I keep picturing her coming but she doesn’t show up,” said Stephanie Martin, 21, who had been friends with the young woman since middle school. “I want to have hope but there is none. I want to have faith but I lost it.”
Martin said her friend was a student at Palm Beach State College who dreamed of going into business, quick with a silly joke and a devout Christian.
The plane plunged from the sky at about 5:30 p.m. Tuesday into the Mar-Mak Colony Club, a palm-dotted community of about 100 trailers bordered on one side by a drive-in theatre and home to many Spanish-speaking residents. The private plane was en route from Orlando to nearby Lantana, said Dan Boggs, an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board, but what caused it to crash remained unknown.
“We’re very fortunate it wasn’t worse,” he said.
Boggs said no one besides the pilot was believed to be aboard the plane and no one else was injured on the ground. He said the victims’ identities would be released by the county medical examiner’s office, which in turn referred questions to the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office. The sheriff’s office said it could not yet release the names.
Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Capt. Albert Borroto said 911 callers reported a low-flying aircraft and first responders arrived at the crash site to find thick smoke rising in the air. Hours after the crash, smoke still rose from the ashes. Daylight exposed a wretched, charred mess of twisted metal. An ash-coated plane engine and propeller were the only recognizable pieces.
Clara Ingram, who lives in the trailer park, said she was home at the time of the crash and heard the boom, coming to her door to see what caused it.
“It just pounded like an explosion,” she said. “Nothing but a big ball of fire.”
Nearby, Cliff Hubbard saw the plumes rising from the site: “There was a big smoke cloud coming up into the sky. Just black, dark smoke,” he said.
Late Tuesday night, a throng of Galicia’s family and friends clutched together in a circle, some with hands extended skyward, and prayed. “Lord, there is a reality we don’t understand,” they said at one point. “Help the family, Lord.”
Tyron Caswell, an employee of a car dealership nearby Mar-Mak, told the Sun Sentinel employees there reviewed security footage taken outside the building of the plane dropping from the sky. “When I look back at the video it was like, ‘Whoa,”‘ he said, adding he was stunned by how close he was to the crash.
Boggs said investigators are reviewing the video.