‘Engulfed in flames.’ 911 callers describe shocking Hollywood plane crash that killed pilot

One person onboard a single-engine plane died after the aircraft crashed and burned in Hollywood, Florida on May 17, 2023, according to authorities.

Shocked, out of breath and nearly in tears, shoppers and passersby frantically detailed to 911 operators how they witnessed a small plane falling before it crashed onto the street near a Hollywood shopping center Wednesday afternoon.

“It landed, I heard a loud boom and it immediately engulfed in flames,” said one caller in newly released 911 tapes. “I would say whoever was in it did not likely get out.”

Around 12:40 p.m., the banner plane, a single-engine Piper PA-25-235, crashed near the Hollywood Hills Plaza shopping center, 450 N. Park Road. The pilot, who was the only one aboard, died.

Hollywood police identified the victim as Mitchell Knaus, a 28-year-old, on Thursday as well as put out new 911 calls that ensued shortly after the crash. Most callers were in utter shock of what they had witnessed.

One woman said she heard the initial loud kaboom from the crash but was unsure if it was going to explode. As she spoke to the 911 operator, another woman cried in front of her.

“It just blew up but it feels like it is going to blow-up again,” one caller said.

Another caller repeatedly muttered “Oh my God” in shock after telling the operator to hurriedly send first responders.

Plane crashed five miles from airport

According to a Federal Aviation Administration report, Knaus was in the initial climb phase of the flight from North Perry Airport when the plane went down. FAA records showed the aircraft was owned by Aerial Banners Inc.

The Miami Herald called the company’s Fort Lauderdale office where a woman, who did not identify herself, said they had already spoken with Knaus’ family before abruptly hanging up.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Knaus intended to tow a banner above a nearby beach, but during the flight a flight controller radioed him to let him know the plane was flying low.

“[Plane’s call sign], everything OK your descending rapidly?,” the controller said, according to a recording on LiveATC.net.

“I’m good now, I’m starting incline,” Knaus replied.

Later into the flight, Knaus informed another air traffic controller that he would have to “drop this banner, I’m not climbing.” He said he didn’t have to go back to North Perry Airport just that he’d drop the banner over a lake.

Video footage shows the banner being released before the plane’s wings started rocking. Promptly after the plane lost control and descended into the ground, the NTSB said.

Knaus only had 324 hours of total flight time, with only 13 to 15 hours in the specific make and model of the plane he was flying, an NTSB investigator said.

Traffic reopens

North Park Road reopened from Hollywood Boulevard to Fillmore Street around 1 p.m. alleviating traffic to Memorial Regional, a major hospital near the crash.

Miami Herald reporters Omar Rodríguez Ortiz and David J. Neal contributed to this report.