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Two hurt when plane clips mast, crashes into Davis Islands airport

Rescue workers at the scene of a plane crash Friday at the Peter O. Knight Airport in Tampa. The pilot and a passenger suffered injuries that weren’t life-threatening.

Rescue workers at the scene of a plane crash Friday at the Peter O. Knight Airport in Tampa. The pilot and a passenger suffered injuries that weren’t life-threatening.

TAMPA — Pilot Matthew Dean has now watched two plane crashes in his life.

The first was in 1993, when Dean was about to land at the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport and another plane careened into the ground. All on board died.

Friday, he was about to take off from the Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands when he saw a plane clip a sailboat, hit a seawall and flip over.

This time, all aboard lived.

They include pilot Daniel Greenwald, 48, a prominent Tampa plastic surgeon, and Mitch Kirby, 19, a friend. The two were sightseeing.

They seemed to be returning over the Port of Tampa at about 11 a.m. when witnesses said their Extra 300 single-engine plane struck a sailboat named Windseeker floating in a shipping channel near the airfield.

The plane's wing hit the boat's 50-foot mast about 10 feet down from the top, causing the plane to slam into a seawall and flip over onto the airfield.

Dean, 34, aborted his takeoff and ran to the crash site about 300 feet away.

He and a relative lifted the wing and helped pull out Kirby, while Greenwald crawled out on his own.

Greenwald's left hand was broken. Kirby felt as if he had broken his left foot, Dean said.

"He looked a little worse but was conscious," Dean said.

Both men were taken to Tampa General Hospital, where they were treated for their injuries, Tampa Fire Rescue Capt. Bill Wade said. There was no fire or significant fuel spill. The plane is registered to Tampa Bay Aircraft Holdings. Greenwald and Ted Waller are listed as registered agents.

"They were very lucky," Greenwald's wife, Julie, said while her husband was in surgery. She said Kirby was "chatty" and seemed okay.

The crash brought dozens of Davis Islands residents to the airfield fence. Two years ago, a plane bore into a Davis Island home not far from Friday's scene, killing the pilot.

Greenwald, head of Bayshore Plastic Surgery and the former head of plastic surgery at Tampa General Hospital, has flown for years. He used to fly aerobatic maneuvers — which included looping and rolling in the air — but gave it up to please his wife when David Cahill, the University of South Florida neurosurgery department chairman, died after a 2003 plane crash.

"I get to recharge my batteries by directing all my mental abilities into one specific thing that's not work," he told the Times in 2003 when asked why he flew.

Friday's crash brought fear, but then relief to some people. Michael Beason and his son, Ryan, 15, feared Beason's two daughters, Erin, 12, and Katie, 10, and his brother-in-law were involved because they were in the air at the same time as Green­wald.

Both Michael and Ryan Beason ran to the crash before learning via radio their family members were fine.

"I called my wife because she wasn't very fond of people flying," said Beason, a third-grade teacher.

Their plane was rerouted to another airport because both runways at Peter O. Knight were closed briefly Friday.

Times staff writer Lisa Greene and researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

Two hurt when plane clips mast, crashes into Davis Islands airport 11/28/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 6:10pm]
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