Miami airport traffic controller identified as person killed in Haulover plane crash

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Narciso Torres, a longtime airport traffic controller, was identified as the person killed in a fiery plane crash-landing on the Haulover Inlet Bridge Saturday afternoon, his union said. The crash sent five others to the hospital, including three crossing the bridge in an SUV.

The National Air Traffic Controllers Association said the 36-year-old Torres was aboard the single-engine Cessna 172 when it crashed on the bridge. On Monday, Miami-Dade Police Department identified Torres as the plane’s pilot and the only person killed.

“This is a terrible tragedy that has sent shock waves throughout our NATCA family,” association President Rich Santa said in a statement. “Our hearts go out to Narciso’s wife, Jennifer, his entire family, and the many fellow union brothers and sisters that loved him so much and are now dealing with an unspeakable loss.”

Authorities have not yet confirmed the identity of two other people who were inside the plane.

Around 1 p.m. Saturday, the Cessna lost engine power and landed on the Haulover bridge, the FAA said. After landing, it collided head-on with an SUV crossing the bridge — a female driver and two children, a 2-year-old girl and a 6-year-old boy, were in the vehicle. The plane flipped and caught fire.

READ MORE: One dead, five injured after plane crashes on Haulover bridge, hits car and catches fire

Three people were aboard the Cessna, two of whom were outside of the plane when Miami-Dade Fire Rescue arrived. The third person was found dead in the aircraft after the flames were extinguished.

The woman in the SUV, identified by Miami-Dade police as Aida Kazakova, 33, from Sunny Isles Beach, and the children were taken to Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach as a precaution. One person was taken to Ryder Trauma Center in Miami and another person was taken to Aventura Hospital.

Miami-Dade rescue crews transport an injured patient after a plane hit the Haulover Bridge on Saturday.
Miami-Dade rescue crews transport an injured patient after a plane hit the Haulover Bridge on Saturday.

Doug Church, deputy director of public affairs for the union, said Torres was known as a leader. He said Torres’ family had been notified of his death.

“He was beloved,” Church told the Miami Herald. “It’s a terrible loss.”

According to his FAA profile, Torres lived in Weston and had many certifications, including for aircraft dispatcher, mechanic, air control tower operator and private pilot.

He began his career in May 2008 at Orlando International Air Traffic Control Tower. He then transferred to New York Terminal Radar Approach Control in 2010, then came back to Orlando International in 2011 before moving to Miami International Airport in 2015.

In Orlando, he served as a local union president from 2013 to 2015, and again was elected as a union president at the Miami airport in 2019.

“Being elected twice as a president speaks to how beloved he was and looked up too,” Church said.

At MIA, his local chapter included 95 union members who serve as air traffic controllers and traffic management coordinators among other roles.

“Like so many thousands of our members, Narciso had such a deep love of all things aviation, and of flying, as evidenced by this flight on a beautiful South Florida day where he was doing what he loved,” Santa said. “This loss hurts so deeply. Narciso will never be forgotten.”

Santa also said Torres had worked “extremely hard” to improve the working conditions of controllers and safety of the National Airspace System.

“Narciso touched so many people with his warmth and kindness,” he said, “both within NATCA, in the facilities he worked, and in every interaction he had.”

Miami Herald staff writers Martin Vassolo, Bianca Padró Ocasio and Omar Rodríguez Ortiz contributed to this report.

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