‘It’s a miracle that we walked away’: New York lawmaker makes emergency plane landing on beach


A New York lawmaker flying a plane made an emergency landing on a desolate stretch of beach in Long Island Friday.

State Assemblymember Clyde Vanel said he and a friend took his plane to practice maneuvers when he was forced to down the aircraft due to engine failure.

The Federal Aviation Administration confirmed in a statement that “a single-engine Beechcraft V35 made an emergency landing on the beach in Shoreham, New York, due to a reported engine issue around 2:15 p.m. local time Friday, March 17.”

The agency said Monday that it was investigating the incident.

Video taken from the beach showed the harrowing moments the small plane glided onto the shore. The landing gear can be seen making first contact with the ground before the plane’s nose grazes sand and skids partially into the water.

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“As per my training, I landed the airplane at the nearest safe location, while attempting to minimize damage to persons or property,” Vanel wrote in a Facebook post.

“I don’t think I was appreciating what was happening,” Vanel told USA TODAY Monday. “I just went to muscle memory to do what I was trained to do.”

“It’s a miracle that we walked away,” said Vanel, who added that the only injury he sustained was a cut to the chin.

Shock continued to grip Vanel Monday as he tried to rest and recover from the incident. He couldn’t remember what the impact felt like, but recalled exiting the plane immediately, fearing it could catch fire or take on more water.

A woman walking her dog on the beach caught the landing on video, and walked over to help Vanel and his friend after impact, the assemblymember said.

The remote strip of beach was in a private community, Vanel said. No first responders showed up, but the lawmaker said he got in touch with the FAA and is in the process of removing the plane from the beach.

Vanel was elected to New York’s state assembly in 2016, and represents several communities in Queens, according to his biography. He is also a private pilot who has owned a plane for over 10 years.

He said Friday’s incident highlighted the importance of following safety procedures.

“This story could have been much different, and should be different,” Vanel said. “I don’t know what a second shot at life means for me, but I do feel like there’s some kind of a calling.”

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