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Small plane crashes into water near Davis Islands; pilot is okay

Pilot Dennis Hardiman, 53, center, watches from a Tampa police boat as his plane is secured near the Davis Islands bridge.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times

Pilot Dennis Hardiman, 53, center, watches from a Tampa police boat as his plane is secured near the Davis Islands bridge.

DAVIS ISLANDS — Police vehicles and ambulances lined the right lane of the Davis Islands bridge on Saturday afternoon as onlookers watched a seaplane sink into the bay.

Dennis Hardiman, 53, was flying his personal plane at 6 p.m. over the water when he made a sharp right turn near shore and gusty winds pushed the aircraft's right wing down, said Officer Shannon Murphy of the Tampa Police Department.

The plane stalled and plummeted into the water 200 yards from the bridge, but Hardiman escaped with only a few bruises and scratches, Murphy said.

Randy LeBlanc, 54, was taking a walk nearby with a friend when Hardiman was still in the air.

"He was really low, so I took out my camera phone to take a picture of him," LeBlanc said. "But I didn't get to take the picture, because all of a sudden he was like, 'Call 911! He's going down.' "

LeBlanc, who is visiting from Orlando, said a private boat was in the water during the accident and raced over to the downed plane to help pull Hardiman out of the water.

He was then taken to shore by Tampa police boats, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.

Hardiman renewed his commercial pilot's license in 2008, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. He's certified to fly single-engine sea and land planes and multi-engine land planes.

The official cause of the crash has not been determined.

Robbyn Mitchell can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or rmitchell@sptimes.com.

Small plane crashes into water near Davis Islands; pilot is okay 04/11/09 [Last modified: Saturday, April 11, 2009 9:26pm]
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