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Small plane crashes at St. Petersburg Country Club

The banner plane clipped a wing on a tree as it landed Thursday at the St. Petersburg Country Club in Lakewood Estates.

KATHLEEN FLYNN | Times

The banner plane clipped a wing on a tree as it landed Thursday at the St. Petersburg Country Club in Lakewood Estates.

ST. PETERSBURG — Robert Fields was on top of his roof making repairs Thursday afternoon when he heard a plane's engine putter out as it floated above his home.

The pilot cranked the engine back to life, but it went silent again.

"That's the last thing I need on Christmas, a plane crashing into my living room," said Fields, 49.

Luckily, Fields lives across from the St. Petersburg Country Club in Lakewood Estates. Lots of open space.

Up above, pilot William Gibson, 47, headed toward the 12th hole. It's considered one of the most difficult on the course. Staying out of the trees can be tricky in the tee shot on the par 4 hole, which has a slight dogleg to the right and is 410 yards from the blues (and 284 yards from the reds).

Down below, several people were golfing. They skedaddled into their carts and sped away when they saw the single-engine, fixed-wing plane diving toward them.

The plane clipped a tree near the tee box, shredding a wing. The craft bounced onto the fairway, coming just short of a pond.

"Two more feet, his nose would have been down in the trench," Fields said.

Gibson emerged from the plane with only a minor hand injury.

"I thought I was going to die," Gibson told rescuers, according to a Fire Department spokesman.

Authorities said Gibson, of St. Petersburg, wasn't interested in talking to members of the news media who had arrived on the scene. Attempts to reach him by phone Thursday evening were unsuccessful.

St. Petersburg police reported that Gibson had taken off from Albert Whitted Airport and was pulling a banner advertising a local crab restaurant. After flying over the St. Pete Beach area, Gibson turned the Bellanca Citabria two-seater back toward the airport. Then the engine gave out, officers said.

Gibson realized he couldn't make it back to the airport and looked for a safe place to land.

The Federal Aviation Authority is investigating, police said.

Small aircraft lands on golf course


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Small plane crashes at St. Petersburg Country Club 12/24/09 [Last modified: Thursday, December 24, 2009 10:13pm]
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