LI Woman Who Saw Plane's Emergency Landing On Beach: 'It Was Surreal'

SHOREHAM, NY — Attorney Caelyn Canace was walking her dog on a Shoreham beach Friday when she saw something unlike anything she’d ever expected: A plane, making an emergency landing just feet away.

New York State Assemblyman Clyde Vanel, who represents Queens, was the pilot of the single-engine plane. On Twitter, he reflected on his experience Friday: “This afternoon, I went out to practice maneuvers in my airplane,” he said. “Unfortunately, the aircraft experienced engine failure.”

As per his training, Vanel said he landed the aircraft at the nearest safe location, while attempting to minimize damage to people or property. “I am thankful that I was able to walk away without injury,” he said. “The FAA’s training on emergency procedures works. For all my fellow pilots, follow the emergency procedures — it will save your life.”

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The Federal Aviation Administration, in a statement to Patch, said that the single-engine Beechcraft V35 made an emergency landing on the beach in Shoreham at 2:15 p.m. Friday due to a reported engine issue; two people were on board.

The FAA said it was investigating the incident.

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Canace described the experience, and said she’s run the gamut of “so many emotions” since seeing the plane land.

Canace said she was walking her dog on the beach, minding her own business, as she often does, enjoying the vast expanse of the Long Island Sound and the “soft, quiet” of the area, so isolated that it lends itself to quiet meditation.

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She was making videos of birds to send to her mother, who lives in Belarus. “Then I saw something out of the corner of my eye and heard something weird, a big, buzzing bee sound,” she said.

She looked up and saw a plane approaching. Watch the video of her experience on Storyful here.

All kinds of thoughts flooded her mind, Canace said. At first, she thought maybe the pilot was trying to be funny, dropping up and down or performing stunts. Then, she realized something entirely different was happening.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my God! He’s crashing!'” she said.

Canace was terrified, unsure of where to run, whether to hide behind one of the large rocks on the beach. The strip of beach where she was standing was very narrow, she said. “You don’t know what the safest thing to do is,” she said. “The next second, I saw the plane crash.”

Suddenly, the plane landed on the ground and then, skidded into the water. Canace realized, “I’m alive,” then ran to help whoever was on the plane, all the while fearing that it might explode.

Then she saw Vanel and his passenger getting out of the plane. “It was like a silent movie,” she said. “I was quiet, they were quiet. We were all in shock. They were getting out of the plane, gathering their belongings.”

Canace told them that that particular spot on the beach has no cell service and told the men that they could walk up to her house, clean up, and call for help there.

The thoughts haunt, even days later, she said. “They could have died. It could have been me, dead. But we’re all alive. I’m a religious person and every morning now, I get up and say, ‘Thank you.” It’s another reminder to never take a day, not even a second, for granted. Things can go bad in a moment.”

She’s grateful to be alive, Canace, an attorney, said. In so many other small plane crashes, the outcome is tragic, she said.

Of the experience, she said, “It was surreal. I was just out on a walk.”

With the weather having been “nasty” earlier in the week, Canace decided to enjoy the sunshine and bring her dog to the beach. She was walking on the beach and, had she been running or listening to music, she may have been injured. “In reality, that plane could have hit me,” she said. “All it takes is one freak accident. I thought, ‘God is everywhere. The angels saved them — and me. It was literally some divine intervention.'”

Even the fact that the plane ended up in the water meant a less severe impact, Canace believes.

It’s not the first time Canace has seen a plane fall from the sky: She worked in New York City in 2009, when hero pilot Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger saved 155 lives, including that of a Cutchogue man.

“I watched that plane go into the Hudson,” Canace said; she was working as a paralegal at the time. “I thought I was overworked, seeing what I was seeing that day. I wondered, ‘Am I going crazy?'”

The experiences have afforded her a greater appreciation for every single beautiful moment of life, Canace said.

“I always give my daughter and my husband and extra hug and kiss,” she said. “It’s never too many times, to tell them how much you love them. You know, when you leave the house, if it’s for the last time.”

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