WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Engine trouble was determined as the cause for an emergency landing that South Salem pilot Michael Schwartz was forced to make on the Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx on Saturday afternoon.
Shortly before 3:30 p.m., Schwartz was forced to land his single-engine, 1966 Piper PA-28, with two passengers aboard, on the northbound expressway near 233rd Street, just south of the Westchester County border.
The plane was en route to Danbury Airport after taking a tour around the Statue of Liberty.
Schwartz and his two passengers, Kristina Terrell, 43, and Monica Castillo, 20, were transported to St. Barnabus Hospital in the Bronx. Only one of the passengers was treated for a minor head injury, according to hospital spokesman Steve Clark.
Inquiries at the Schwartz household were not immediately returned to The Daily Voice.
Sung Lee, a Yorktown resident who heard about the incident, called Schwartz a “hero,” and added that it was “miraculous” no one was seriously injured on the typically congested highway.
“We saw it on the news and just couldn’t believe it," Lee said. "It was a small plane, but he landed right in the heart of the Bronx. It’s just incredible that everyone is walking away from this one.”
According to reports , there were several heroes from the New York City Department of Transportation, who noticed that the plane was in trouble and promptly proceeded to stop traffic, thus providing Schwartz the opportunity to land cleanly.
The plane suffered minor damage to its landing gear, but was otherwise kept intact. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called the landing “a miracle,” after being apprised of the situation on Saturday.
Northbound lanes on the Major Deegan were forced to be closed until approximately 6 p.m., while fire officials and first responders cleared the scene and had the plane lifted away.
Tom Deen, who was returning to his Yonkers apartment after visiting Manhattan, caught the tail end of the traffic.
“To be honest, we weren’t sure what was going on. We were at a complete halt for at least 25 minutes,” he recalled. “Considering a plane landed on the Major Deegan, I think we can handle the little hiccup.”