ST. PETERSBURG — Nancy Schofield's single-engine plane was close to reaching the runway at Albert Whitted Airport on Monday morning.
Then the engine cut out.
Schofield was so low that there was nothing she could do but brace for impact. The Cessna splashed into the water about 150 yards from the runway.
"I lost power, and I was so low at that point that I didn't have time to try to restart it, and I just didn't make it," Schofield later told Bay News 9.
"It was scary. I mean, once I hit the water, the plane starts to sink pretty quickly. And I couldn't get the door open so I went out the window."
Schofield, 55, of Marathon, who officials said was flying to St. Petersburg to see a friend, was not injured. No one else was aboard.
A few fishing boats floating nearby helped Schofield out of the water, witnesses said.
Witnesses said the plane appeared to be coming in for a low landing when its nose suddenly turned up, dropping the plane into the water at 11:35 a.m.
"There were boats out there right next to it that went to the plane almost immediately," said eyewitness Tim Totten of Tampa.
Totten and his wife, Cindy, were sitting along the water near the airport taking photos and enjoying the pleasant weather. They said the plane appeared to be flying low and slow without problems before it fell into the water.
Federal Aviation Administration inspectors will investigate the cause of the crash.
Lt. Joel Granata, a St. Petersburg Fire Rescue spokesman, said a salvage company would pull the plane from the water.
There were no fuel leaks. Each wing had about a quarter-tank of fuel, he said.
Schofield has been flying since 2000 and had practiced water landings, Granata said.
According to Granata, Schofield said she doesn't know why the plane lost power.
Granata said Schofield told him she plans to buy another plane, though she plans to make sure she has a raft on board.
Times researcher Will Gorham contributed to this report.