Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Public safety

NTSB releases initial report on plane crash near Venice that killed two

The father and his young daughter killed by a plane making an emergency landing off Caspersen Beach last month were playing in about 4 feet of water when they were struck.

Ommy Irizarry's young son was also in the water nearby and ducked to avoid the plane, which was gliding in silently after its engine failed. Irizarry's wife, Rebecca, saw it out of the corner of her eye, but didn't see it hit her family.

New details of the July 27 crash were released this week as part of the National Transportation Safety Board's preliminary report. It includes information gleaned from interviews with the pilot, Karl Kokomoor, the Irizarry family and witnesses.

Ommy Irizarry, 36, an Army sergeant vacationing from Georgia, died at the beach. His daughter Oceana, 9, was taken to All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine in St. Petersburg, where she died July 29.

Kokomoor, 57, told investigators that his ill-fated flight lasted no more than 15 minutes. He and his passenger, David Theen, 60, took off from Buchan Airport in Englewood that Sunday afternoon without filing a flight plan, but were headed to Venice Municipal Airport.

The Piper Cherokee he was flying hadn't been used in 31/2 months, but Kokomoor didn't notice trouble until he was 1,000 feet over Venice and preparing to land. The engine lost power, and Kokomoor radioed the airport to declare his emergency.

He told investigators that he thought a water landing might cause the plane to flip due to its heavy landing gear, so he headed for the beach. He saw groups of people and tried to navigate around them, he said, aiming for a spot he thought was empty.

The plane struck Ommy and Oceana and came to rest near the shoreline, about 200 feet from the victims, according to the report.

Another witness said the plane "kind of kicked over to the right" when it landed before coming to rest on the beach.

Rebecca Irizarry, Oceana's mother, pulled the girl from the water while a friend helped her husband to shore. Neither the man nor his daughter were breathing. Bystanders helped perform CPR.

The Irizarrys and their three children were vacationing near Siesta Key to celebrate the couple's ninth wedding anniversary. They had arrived at the beach around midday and were joined by Irizarry's mother and another couple about 30 minutes later, Rebecca Irizarry told investigators.

One witness said he was standing about 50 yards south of the family. He saw the plane pass overhead, but said it made no noise.

An initial inspection of the plane's engine didn't find anything that would have caused the crash, the report said, but investigators are still researching the engine's electrical, air induction and fuel delivery systems in an effort to determine what caused the engine to stall.

Kokomoor told investigators he didn't realize he'd struck the family until he got out of the plane. Rebecca Irizarry asked him for a cellphone so she could make an emergency call. He told investigators he thought she was calling on his behalf, and only later learned he'd struck her family.

This story has been changed the reflect the following correction: Oceana Irizarry, the 9-year-old killed by a plane making an emergency landing off Caspersen Beach last month, was Rebecca Irizarry's daughter. A National Transportation Safety Board report cited in a story Friday mischaracterized their relationship.

Contact Claire Wiseman at [email protected] or (727) 893-8804. Follow @clairelwiseman.

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