TAMPA — A pilot was killed when a small plane crashed at Tampa Executive Airport Sunday afternoon.
Hillsborough sheriff's officials said the plane nose dived on the runway of the airport, 6530 Tampa Executive Road, just before 4 p.m. The crash occurred as the pilot, Ki L. Martin, 53, of Wimauma, was taking off, sheriff's officials said.
The plane went down just after getting airborne, officials said, and the cause was unknown.
Officials said no one else was aboard the plane, which Martin stored at the airport. The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate.
A colleague said Martin worked in the Tampa branch of Sarasota Avionics, a company that provides maintenance work on planes.
"I'm just totally sick," said Larry Viergever, an employee based in Sarasota who has known Martin for 15 years.
After hearing the news that a pilot had died in a crash at the airport, Viergever prayed it wasn't Martin.
He remembered Martin as a diligent worker who loved tinkering with planes and who always had a minute to chit-chat about engines and repair techniques. He was a respectful man who spoke to you like an equal, an attentive manager who stayed ahead of problems, and a wonderful pilot who was ecstatic in the cockpit, Viergever said.
Viergever asked a Tampa Bay Times reporter what kind of plane Martin was flying during the crash.
After being told it was a small, yellow airplane, he sighed. "Yeah, that was probably his Husky. It's a type of aerobatics plane. He was very proud of it. He always cleaned it."
"He is a great guy," Viergever said. "I can't hardly say was yet. He'll be missed more than most."