Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

It could take months to pinpoint cause of Friday night plane crash in Pasco County

Tina Copeland, 46, and her daughter, Cami, 7, died when the plane they were in crashed north of Lakeland late Friday.

Special to the Times

Tina Copeland, 46, and her daughter, Cami, 7, died when the plane they were in crashed north of Lakeland late Friday.

ZEPHYRHILLS — Authorities say a newlywed, her 7-year-old daughter and the pilot flying her husband's company plane were the victims of a fiery plane crash in eastern Pasco County on Friday night.

Pilot-for-hire Thomas Scott Long, 44, of Hudson, Tina Copeland, 46, and her daughter Cami died in the crash, the Pasco County Sheriff's Office said Saturday.

Friends said Long was hired to fly Copeland and her daughter from Gainesville to Lakeland to spend the weekend with Bob Stallings, whose company, Citrus Aviation Inc., owns the single-engine plane.

But about 8:30 p.m., Long reported problems aboard the 1998 Piper Malibu and declared the need for an emergency landing. Air traffic controllers directed the pilot to the nearest airport, Zephyrhills, but the six-seater plane did not make it.

Air traffic controllers lost communication with Long about 3 miles from the airport, and the plane went down in flames in a swampy area near U.S. 98 about 3 miles north of County Road 54, only three-quarters of a mile from the spot where Long had intended to land.

On Saturday, friends and family mourned the losses.

Long was an experienced pilot who'd enjoyed a career as a pilot-for-hire for many years, said brother, Brian Long. He flew for several commuter companies and split his time between Lakeland and Hudson, where his mother lives.

"He was a father and a friend and a good person. And he loved to fly. That's what he lived for and that's what he did," Brian Long said. "His motto was, 'No matter what, there's always blue skies.'"

Tina Copeland and Stallings married in Las Vegas a week before the crash, but the two had been friends for years, said her ex-husband, Matt Copeland, who is Cami's father.

He said his daughter loved to sing, especially songs from Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift. She also loved horses.

"She was on horseback with me at 6 weeks," Matt Copeland said. "She loved being outside and riding horses, just the two of us. She was the light of my life."

Matt and Tina Copeland divorced in April, but the two shared custody of Cami and lived in side-by-side houses in Archer, near Gainesville, Matt Copeland said.

Tina Copeland had two sons from another marriage, and Cami also had a half brother and half sister on her father's side.

"She wished her mom and dad would have been together, but she was a happy kid," Matt Copeland said.

Matt Copeland said his ex-wife, who worked in customer service and billing for a Gainesville wheelchair company, intended to keep her home for Cami and split her time between Archer and Lakeland. The commute would have been easy with her husband's plane, he said.

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office said the Medical Examiner's Office will make the final confirmation on the identities of the victims, whose bodies were badly burned in the crash. That may take several days.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are both investigating the crash.

A representative from Piper Malibu and the company that manufactures the plane's engine also are investigating, said Bob Gretz, a senior federal air safety investigator.

A preliminary crash report will be available in about a week on the agency's Web site,, he said. It could take six to 12 months for investigators to process information such as air traffic and pilot records before probable cause of the accident can be determined.

Times staff writer Camille C. Spencer contributed to this report.

It could take months to pinpoint cause of Friday night plane crash in Pasco County 10/24/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 7, 2009 6:48pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates


    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears


    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'


    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]