A Cessna 172 made an emergency landing that ended with a crash on the bridge at Internet-infamous Haulover Inlet north of Miami Beach this week, and it seems to have a number of pilots debating the merits of choosing a busy road to make your emergency landing. Sadly, in the incident, one person was killed and five injured. The fatally injured occupant of the plane has been identified as Narciso Torres, a Miami Tower controller.
According to reports, shortly after the Cessna made its emergency landing, it collided with an SUV. Just how the collision happened is not known. Images show the flipped-over plane’s spinner and cowling to be relatively undamaged compared to the catastrophic damage to the front of the SUV. We’ll wait to see how the NTSB words it.
Online aviators had a lot to say about the pilot’s choice of landing venue, given the enormous body of water nearby. “Ditching in the water might have well saved a life in this case,” wrote one. “Roads are the last resort,” wrote another, citing cars and wires as unacceptable risk factors for an emergency landing. “Bridges are narrow,” wrote another, and, “Landing on a bridge like that is suicidal,” wrote one more.
As a counterpoint, it’s worth noting that the Internet is full of videos showing successful emergency landings on roads and highways. Water ditching—even when successful by the definition of occupant safety—rarely looks successful because of the giant splash it generates, followed by the inevitable visuals of a dunked aircraft. Which is more survivable? The only good answer is, it depends.