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West Orange Times & Observer Tuesday, Aug. 6, 2019 1 year ago

Fuel cap lands in Winter Garden backyard, nearly misses woman

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A woman was almost hit while standing on her lanai by a circular, metal disc that fell out of the sky.
by: Tim Freed Managing Editor

A Winter Garden woman is thankful to be alive after a near-death experience — when a fuel cap from an aircraft fell from the sky and landed just a foot away from her.

Dara Hackett, who lives in Belle Meade, was outside on the lanai Thursday afternoon with her dog and her friend, Evie Anderson, when a metal circular fuel cap fell through the screen enclosure above her, landed on the coping of the pool and splashed into the water.

“I had my back to the pool, and then all of the sudden, we heard this loud noise — it sounded louder than a gunshot — a ting or a clank, and then a splash and the water splashed on us,” Hackett said. “We turned around, looked in the pool and we saw this round object and an O-ring gasket, and we’re like ‘Oh my God, where did that come from?’”

After fishing the cap from the water, Hackett realized the object, which measures about 6 to 7 inches across, had fallen from an aircraft after looking up a serial number and noticing an odor of fuel. The Hackett family called the Winter Garden Police Department to file a report.

“One of the officers, when looking at the cap, came to the conclusion by the color that it possibly could be military,” Hackett said.

The following day, the family received a visit from Federal Aviation Administration officials. Hackett was told the plane could have been about 10 miles in the air and that the fuel cap likely traveled at about 300 mph.

“I was standing about a foot away from where it hit,” Hackett said. “It was a very close call, I would say. … It could have killed any one of us. I’m feeling very lucky.”

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the incident is currently under investigation — Hackett said she was told it could take up to a month before officials find out what happened.

“It’s very scary that something like this could come flying out of the sky at any given point in time anywhere,” she said. “I was very lucky, and the next person might not be so lucky.”

In the meantime, Hackett is just thankful to be alive. She plans to keep the fuel cap.

“(The FAA) asked me if I wanted it and I told them, ‘Of course, it’s my souvenir,’” Hackett said. “I’m going to put it in a little shadowbox and put it in my wall unit. When I look at it, I’ll count my blessings.”

Tim Freed was the managing editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Southwest Orange Observer. He previously spent six years covering the Winter Park/Maitland area and is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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