Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Helicopter crashes off Apollo Beach coast

Rescue crews search the waters around Pine Key after a small, black Robinson R22 helicopter crashed nearby Friday.


Rescue crews search the waters around Pine Key after a small, black Robinson R22 helicopter crashed nearby Friday.

APOLLO BEACH — Witnesses saw a small, black helicopter foundering in the sky.

One man heard a pop. Another saw the helicopter turn upward, then plummet down, about 300 yards offshore, near Pine Key.

An off-duty police officer, among others, called 911, and authorities from across Hillsborough responded with trucks, boats and divers, drawn to a spot in the water marked by a fuel slick and floating seat cushions and pieces of a helicopter.

But about an hour after the 3:10 p.m. crash, the ground units left.

Authorities were looking for a body. They suspended the search Friday night and vowed to resume at 7:30 a.m. today, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.

Witness John Cerrato of Apollo Beach expected the worst after seeing the crash.

"The way it fell out of the sky," Cerrato said, "it was done."

Another witness, Matthew Scull, said he saw the helicopter do a flip in the air.

"It came down with a crazy, mashing metal noise and a huge splash," he said.

Scull called 911, then rushed to his boat. By the time he got to the crash site, other boats had already arrived.

About three hours after beginning their search, with no one pulled from the bay, deputies confirmed they knew two things: where the helicopter took off and the name of the person on the log as the pilot.

They did not release either bits of information, while divers searched near the key commonly known as "Beer Can Island."

There was an initial report of a body seen floating in the water, though that remained unconfirmed for hours.

The helicopter is a Robinson R22, a small, two-bladed, single-engine helicopter.

Times news researcher John Martin and staff photographers Edmund Fountain and Skip O'Rourke contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at or (813) 226-3433.

Helicopter crashes off Apollo Beach coast 11/30/12 [Last modified: Friday, November 30, 2012 11:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Video: 'Hamilton' cast sings 'Happy Birthday' to celebrate 'Stars Wars' 40th Anniversary


    The cast of Hamilton sang a rendition of "Happy Birthday" for Star Wars' 40th Anniversary.
  2. Tarpon Springs man killed after three cars hit him on U.S. 19 in Holiday


    A Tarpon Springs man was killed Wednesday night in Holiday after he was struck by three cars as he attempted to cross U.S. 19, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  3. Siesta Beach tops Dr. Beach's rankings of best locations in America


    Three beaches in Florida made it on a highly coveted list of the top 10 in America this year, ranked by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. "Dr. Beach."

    This May 18, 2017 photo shows Siesta Beach on Siesta Key in Sarasota, Fla. Siesta Beach is No. 1 on the list of best beaches for the summer of 2017 compiled by Stephen Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach, a professor at Florida International University. [Chris O'Meara | Associated Press]
  4. Tattooed 'Joker' accused of pointing gun at Miami traffic

    Bizarre News

    MIAMI — Police in Miami-Dade County have managed to arrest the Joker without Batman's help following reports of a green-haired man with tattoos on his face pointing a gun at traffic.

    This photo provided by the Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department shows Lawrence Sullivan, who was arrested in Miami-Dade County, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017, and charged with carrying a concealed firearm. Police say the self-described "tattoo model" was pointing a gun at moving vehicles. [Miami-Dade Corrections and Rehabilitation Department via AP]
  5. Deputies: Two men, teen intentionally set fire, left it to burn within Weedon Island Preserve


    ST. PETERSBURG –– Two men and a teen face charges after deputies say they deliberately started a fire within Weedon Island Preserve last month.

    Adam Grote, 19, left, and Brandon Kholos, 20, along with a 17-year-old, face charges after deputies say they intentionally started a fire on April 15, 2017, that burned about six acres on Googe Island within Weedon Island Preserve in St. Petersburg. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]