Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Public safety

Pilot survives crash off Hernando Beach, calls Coast Guard for rescue

HERNANDO BEACH — A U.S. Coast Guard air crew proved Wednesday that practice makes perfect.

The Clearwater-based crew was heading out on a training operation when it was thrust into a real-life rescue mission. Reports of a downed plane came over the radio moments before the crew was to depart.

The distressed plane went down shortly after 11 a.m., landing in the Gulf of Mexico in 3 feet of water about 1 mile west of Hernando Beach.

The pilot, who was traveling alone, survived and was able to swim to a marsh and call for help, according to the Coast Guard.

The Federal Aviation Administration reported that the Piper fixed-wing single-engine plane — which had been en route from Knoxville, Tenn., to St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport — lost power before crashing. The plane is registered to Turbo Arrow Aviation LLC out of Knoxville.

Around the same time, Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater Lts. Tom Huntley and Tyler Monez, co-pilots of an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, were preparing to head out with a swimmer and a flight mechanic on a training mission to practice water rescues.

After getting a call from the FAA, however, the Coast Guard dispatched the helicopter, as well as two boats from its stations in Yankeetown and Clearwater-Sand Key, to Hernando.

Huntley and Monez squinted through the heavy, wind-driven rain that allowed only a quarter-mile of visibility. But they couldn't spot the plane's pilot, who called authorities to say that he could see the helicopter flying overhead.

Using the helicopter's onboard cameras, the flight mechanic spotted the bright yellow color of the man's life raft, which had blown ashore, and then the tail and wings of the partially submerged plane.

The crew quickly hoisted the shivering man into their helicopter, where they gave him a quick medical check and dry clothes before hauling him back to their Clearwater base for observation.

The crew believes a combination of engine problems and inclement weather contributed to the crash.

"He was very thankful," Huntley said of the pilot. "I think he was a little bit in shock."

The rescuers said the pilot, who didn't want to be identified and was released early Wednesday afternoon, was lucky. However, they shrugged off the title "hero."

"We train every day for that exact mission, so it was a pretty quick shift," Huntley said. "It's just the job," he added. "It comes with wearing a green flight suit. That's what we're here for."

Erin Sullivan contributed to this report. Keyonna Summers can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4153.

Comments
Police: St. Petersburg suspect, caught on video stealing safe, in custody

Police: St. Petersburg suspect, caught on video stealing safe, in custody

ST. PETERSBURG — It took more than an hour for a St. Petersburg man to break into a restaurant last week and use a hammer and crowbar to wrestle a safe from the wall before freeing in and dragging it through the back and into his car, according to po...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Search underway for North Carolina man missing from Tampa-based Carnival Paradise

Search underway for North Carolina man missing from Tampa-based Carnival Paradise

The U.S. Coast Guard was searching Tuesday for a 50-year-old North Carolina man who reportedly fell off a Tampa-based cruise ship.The Coast Guard Key West received a call from the cruise ship Carnival Paradise about 10 a.m. saying the man, Brian Lamo...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Deputies: 10th-grader brings loaded gun to Bradenton high school

Deputies: 10th-grader brings loaded gun to Bradenton high school

A Bradenton Bayshore High School student faces charges after he brought a gun on campus on Tuesday, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.Around 11:45 a.m., school resource officers were alerted by school staff that the student, a 10th-gra...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Police swarm Panama City street in apparent shootout

Police swarm Panama City street in apparent shootout

PANAMA CITY BEACH — Multiple law enforcement agencies have surrounded a Panama City apartment building where an active shooter is barricaded inside.City spokeswoman Caitlyn Lawrence says it’s still an active situation. The suspect has been firing on ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
FedEx driver, 22, dies in crash on Interstate 4

FedEx driver, 22, dies in crash on Interstate 4

TAMPA — A 22-year-old FedEx driver died on Interstate 4 Tuesday when a tire blew out on his freight truck, which veered into the path of a Chevrolet Volt, state troopers said. Two teen girls in the Volt survived the 10:21 a.m. crash. A photo shows ci...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Crime in Florida, Tampa Bay region decreased in 2017, data show

Crime in Florida, Tampa Bay region decreased in 2017, data show

Crime in Florida reached a 47-year low in 2017, according to state figures released Tuesday and touted as a "major announcement" by a Republican governor determined to win a U.S. Senate seat. The state’s total crime rate dropped by 6 percent from 201...
Updated: 6 hours ago

FDLE: Pasco couple scammed elderly employer out of $480,000

TAMPA — A Pasco County couple face dozens of charges after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said they stole more than $480,000 from their elderly employer.Chet Alan Ragsdale, 45, was arrested Monday on 28 counts of grand theft, 25 counts of ...
Published: 05/21/18
4 sinkholes open in The Villages retirement community

4 sinkholes open in The Villages retirement community

THE VILLAGES — Four sinkholes have opened up in a fast-growing retirement community in Florida, including one in front of a home that was abandoned months ago because of an earlier sinkhole. A spokeswoman for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office says t...
Published: 05/21/18
Florida man caught walking around naked with a bottle of cooking oil, deputies say

Florida man caught walking around naked with a bottle of cooking oil, deputies say

A Gulf Breeze man walked around a neighborhood naked while carrying a bottle of cooking oil, Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s deputies said.The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a homeowner at 8:30 p.m. on May 17 saying home security...
Published: 05/21/18
A man punched a pregnant, deaf woman and her service dog on a plane ride to Florida, police say

A man punched a pregnant, deaf woman and her service dog on a plane ride to Florida, police say

A man is accused of attacking a deaf couple and their service dog while they were travelling on a plane headed toward Orlando.The incident happened as Matthew Silvay, 30, and Hazel Ramirez, 21, were on Frontier Flight 1752 as it left Colorado Springs...
Published: 05/21/18