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One dead in small plane crash at St. Pete-Clearwater airport

CLEARWATER — It's supposed to a be routine maneuver to practice landing an aircraft.

But something went wrong Wednesday when a pilot doing "touch-and-go" exercises at St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport veered off the edge of the main runway and crashed into a nearby grassy area about 11:45 a.m.

The pilot, 24-year-old Marshall Casey Barath of Nampa, Idaho, was the only person aboard the twin-engine Piper Comanche at the time and was dead when emergency crews arrived, said airport director Tom Jewsbury.

In aviation, "touch-and-go" training involves landing on a runway and taking off again without coming to a full stop. The pilot typically circles the airport and repeats the maneuver.

"He had come in, he had landed and was immediately accelerating, getting ready to take off, and it was at that time that the accident occurred," Jewsbury said.

Barath did not declare an emergency with the air traffic control tower. The crash was visible from the tower, however, and controllers called 911 and the airport's emergency personnel.

The plane did not catch fire, Jewsbury said. Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board were on scene about an hour later investigating the crumpled fuselage to determine the cause of the crash. The skies were partly cloudy at the time of the crash.

The plane came to rest far enough off the runway that airport officials were able to reopen it after rescue vehicles were cleared, Jewsbury said. No other flights were delayed or diverted by the crash because air traffic was able to use an alternate runway.

The plane is registered with Jet Aircraft Management in Sarasota, but airport officials said the plane was sold to someone about six months ago. No one with the company could immediately be reached Wednesday.

Barath's father and brother declined to comment.

It's the first time a plane has crashed at the airport in at least 10 years, Jewsbury said.

Times staff writer Michael Majchrowicz and researchers Caryn Baird and John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Tony Marrero at