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Two confirmed dead as small plane crashes at Tampa's Peter O. Knight airport

Published Mar. 19, 2016

TAMPA — Two people died Friday when a small plane crashed on a runway at Peter O. Knight Airport on Davis Islands.

Rescue crews on scene said the twin-engine Cessna 340 crashed during takeoff. A spokesman for Tampa International Airport said the plane was headed to Pensacola.

Another plane may have been involved, but that was unconfirmed late Friday. All the wreckage was from one plane.

One observer said she heard a loud boom, saw fire on the ground and then another plane ascend from the runway. TIA spokeswoman Emily Nipps could not confirm that report, referring questions to investigators.

The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the crash along with the Federal Aviation Administration. The board's website suggests it could take months for investigators to determine the cause.

Tampa police did not immediately release the names of the two people killed, pending next of kin notifications.

Valued for its proximity to downtown Tampa, Peter O. Knight Airport has served general aviation pilots for decades. There is no control tower, so pilots who use it communicate with each over a common traffic advisory frequency, Nipps said. That is typical for airports without towers, she said.

"Basically, any pilots that are taking off or landing, they communicate with each other on what their intentions are," she said.

Smoke from the crash, which happened about 11:30 a.m., could be seen from downtown skyscrapers.

Tampa fire district Chief Mark Bogush said the plane was destroyed and was "completely engulfed in flames" when crews arrived. The plane sat in several pieces as crews worked to extinguish the blaze, which took about 20 minutes.

A Tampa Fire and Rescue boat that was training in Hillsborough Bay first reported the crash on the runway. Engines arrived two minutes later. Bogush said it was "not a very large fire" and "was very easy to get under control."

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who lives on Davis Islands, arrived shortly after the plane went down.

The site of the crash was right across the street from where a plane crashed into a house in 2006. That home was later rebuilt on the television show Extreme Home Makeover.

Nipps said the airport will likely be closed until this afternoon.

Times staff writer Patty Ryan contributed to this report. Contact Steve Contorno at scontorno@tampabay.com. Contact Sara DiNatale at sdinatale@tampabay.com.

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