Sunday, March 12, 2017

Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee, Sebastian Aero Services Inc., N8447R: Incident occurred March 12, 2017 near Peter O. Knight Airport (KTPF), Tampa, Hillsborough County, Florida

Sebastian Aero Services Inc:

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office: Tampa, Florida 

Aircraft on departure, force landed short of the runway into the water.  

Date: 12-MAR-17
Time: 17:37:00Z
Regis#: N8447R
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: PA28
Event Type: INCIDENT
Highest Injury: NONE
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: UNKNOWN
Flight Phase: TAKEOFF (TOF)

TAMPA -- First responders were on the scene of a downed Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee in the waters off Peter O. Knight airport on Davis Islands in Tampa.

According to Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, only one person was aboard the Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee at the time of the crash around 1:37 p.m.

The pilot was pulled from the water from nearby boaters and is reportedly uninjured, according to Tampa Police Department.

HCSO said that the Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee experienced a loss of power after takeoff and landed in the water.

TPD Marine units will assist in pulling the plane out of Tampa Bay.

The dive team for the Tampa Police Department was able to finally pull the Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee from the shipping channel several hours following the crash. 

The Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee will be kept at the Peter O' Knight Airport for further investigation into the cause of the crash. 

Story and video:

TAMPA — Those spending their Sunday afternoon at the Davis Island Yacht Club knew the small plane was in trouble the moment they spotted it.

The Piper PA-28-140 Cherokee was less than 200 feet in the air when it started circling back to Peter O. Knight Airport just moments after takeoff, its engine already sputtering.

"It sounded terrible," said Robert Woithe, 14.

The plane didn't make it back, however. Seconds later Woithe saw it hit the water tail first, falling just short of the runway.

"It looked like it was going to snap in half," Woithe said.

It was worse than it looked, however. Tampa police said the pilot was the plane's lone occupant and managed to escape injury — and the plane, before it sank into the waters off Davis Islands.

The incident took place about 1:37 p.m. The pilot was not identified. Tampa police said the plane lost power shortly after takeoff and couldn't make it back to the airport in time.

Witnesses said the pilot opened the cockpit in time to swim away from the plane before it sank into the water.

A motorboat rushed over to pick the pilot out of the water.

A second boat, captained by Michael Zonnenberg, arrived and started tossing buoys into the water around the sinking plane so officials could find it later.

Zonnenberg, 24, of St. Petersburg is a sailing coach at the yacht club and was teaching kids at the moment of the crash. He does not know who was in the boat that rescued the pilot.

Woithe, who participated in the yacht club's Fireball and Friends Regatta earlier in the day, said he and other club members rushed to the water with life preservers just in case.

"I'm glad they weren't needed," he said.

Tampa police divers were sent to the scene to recover the plane. The plane flipped over under water and came to rest on its roof. The divers placed large balloons beneath the wings and inflated them, bringing the plane — wheels first — to the surface. Then they used the balloons and two boats to maneuver the plane to a nearby boat slip.

Police called in a heavy duty tow truck to lift the plane out of the water.

The plane will be transported and stored at the airport pending an investigation.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the incident, police said.


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