Passenger in Sarasota plane crash still in critical condition

rdymond@bradenton.comJanuary 15, 2013 

SARASOTA -- As a passenger continued to fight for his life in a Tampa hospital Monday, the crashed aircraft he was traveling in was hauled away by a salvage crew.

The 63-year-old man from Ann Arbor, Mich., who survived the 3:30 p.m. Saturday crash on the campus of New College of Florida remained in critical condition Monday at the Regional Burn Center at Tampa General Hospital, said Ellen Fiss, a Tampa General spokeswoman.

The pilot, 70-year-old John William Ardoyno, died at the crash scene.

At 9:30 a.m. Monday, Ralph Hicks, senior air safety investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board came to Sarasota from Atlanta to supervise the removal of the badly burned wreckage of the aircraft.

By about 1 p.m. pieces of the airplane were fully loaded onto a flatbed truck by an airplane salvage company from Groveland and will be stored in Groveland, Hicks said.

"We don't speculate at the scene," Hicks said when asked if he knew what caused the Seawind 3000 experimental airplane to crash Saturday.

"But what we can say are the facts as we know them, which is that the aircraft hit that tree there," Hicks said, pointing at a badly burned pine tree not far

from the Heiser Natural Sciences Building. "It ended up in an inverted position, upside down."

"We also have witnesses who tell us when the airplane hit the tree a fireball erupted," Hicks added. Hicks said that rumors that parts fell off the plane were incorrect.

"All of the major parts were there at the crash site and we weren't missing any," Hicks said. "We went through the engine today. We can also say that very little of the plane did not burn."

Hicks said the airplane weighed 3,400 pounds and was categorized by the NTSB as "experimental, amateur-built." Hicks confirmed that the pilot and passenger were pilots and that it was thought their trip was "local" in nature.

"Everything checked out fine with the licensing of the airplane and the pilot's license," Hicks said. "We are investigating the history of the aircraft but don't have that information yet."

Although all the factual information regarding the crash will be on in a few weeks, the actual conclusions regarding the crash will take six to nine months, Hicks said.

Classes and offices at New College of Florida were open Monday, said David Gulliver, a college spokesman.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be contacted at 941-748-0411, ext. 6686 or tweet @RichardDymond.

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