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Cargo plane crashes, burns near Miami International; at least 3 killed

August 7, 1997

MIAMI (AP) _ A cargo plane carrying four people crashed in a huge ball of flame on the streets of Miami today moments after takeoff for the Dominican Republic, killing at least three.

Red flames and black smoke shot skyward from the crash scene on the edge of Miami International Airport after the Fine Air Inc. DC-8 went down shortly after 12:30 p.m. in a busy commercial area northwest of downtown.

Linda O’Brien of Metro-Dade public safety department said the four people on the plane were presumed dead. Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas said later that the bodies of three people who were on the plane had been found. He said two people on the ground were treated for minor injuries.

The plane, carrying textiles to Santo Domingo, tilted sharply to the right before it went down, witnesses said. It first hit at the edge of an empty lot, then skidded across the lot, breaking up into flaming wreckage that slammed across a busy street, 72nd Avenue.

``It was going down sideways and it exploded right in front of me,″ said a witness, Johanna Serrer. ``I started screaming and I ran inside to tell everyone.″

``It looked like it was going straight up like a missile,″ said James Moralez of the Metro-Dade fire-rescue department, who saw the crash from a nearby building. ``He couldn’t handle it, and I guess it went straight on down.

``We all witnessed it go down and explode.″

The wreckage slid into the front of a row of small businesses and stores called the International Airport Center. Several cars caught fire but the wreckage came to a rest without smashing into the building at full force.

``Everybody was yelling `Run! Run! Run!‴ said Mildred Marquez, who works in the building at Asian Sources Computer. ``We didn’t know it was an airplane. There was so much black smoke.″

Another witness, Bruce Wilson, said: ``The noise was unbelievable. I didn’t actually realize it as an airline at that time.″

The aircraft, flight 101, had a crew of four and was registered to Fine Air, said Kathleen Bergen of the Federal Aviation Administration regional office in Atlanta.

Three flight crew members and a security guard were on board, company spokeswoman Nanci Adels told CNN.

Fine Air operates a fleet of 15 DC-8s to haul freight to South America, Central America and the Caribbean, according to its Web home page. The company, based in Miami, grew out of the 1948 air service that transported fresh produce from Latin America to the United States.

Just Wednesday, the company began offering stock to the public on the Nasdaq stock exchange.

After the crash, the stock fell $1.37 1/2 to $14.50, a drop of 9 percent for the day and off 15 percent from its peak before trading was halted.

The National Transportation Safety Board sent a team of investigators to the site.

It was the second big cargo plane crash in the United States in eight days. A FedEx cargo plane crashed early the morning of July 31 at Newark International Airport in New Jersey. The five people aboard escaped safely before the plane, an MD-11, burned.

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