Elderly Lake Alfred couple survives plane crash

Image 1 of 5

An elderly pilot and his wife survived when their seaplane crashed into a Lake Alfred neighborhood after taking off from Winter Haven this morning.

Deputies say John Murphy, 84, was flying with and his wife, 75-year-old Doris, when the plane -- a 1946 Republic RC-3 Seabee -- lost altitude shortly after takeoff and crashed into a detached garage along Buena Vista Drive.  That's just south of Lake Echo.

From SkyFOX, it appeared that the plane clipped some trees before striking the building. The plane's tail and wing were sticking up from the garage, and tree debris was strewn about the area.

No one was home at the time, but a neighbor heard the whole thing and rushed to the scene.

"Sounded like someone turning on a gigantic wood chipper, then I heard it crash," Mark Henke recalled.  "The woman didn't look too bad. She was kind of trapped in there. We wiggled her out. The guy was laying on the ground, a big gash on his head. Looked like he had broken ribs, but he said he didn't."

The Murphys were both taken to the hospital where they are in stable condition with non-life-threatening injuries, according to deputies.

Lake Alfred's police chief said there were several ways the crash could have been worse -- from nearby power lines to potential casualties on the ground.

"Once again, God was looking out after these people," offered Chief Art Bodenheimer, "and the homeowner that would have usually been there."