'Bring my toolbox,' pilot tells wife after plane demolished in Manatee County crash

jajones1@bradenton.comJanuary 21, 2013 

MANATEE -- Randy R. Roman is the lucky one.

Roman, 47, was able to walk away from the crash Sunday that destroyed his Blue Rotax 447 Ultra-Light aircraft, moments after takeoff from a grass strip on Mendoza Road.

Rather than alarm his wife when he called after the accident, he just asked her to "bring my toolbox."

He never let on that the plane had been demolished.

Roman, a welder who has flown various aircraft since he was 14 years old, said the corrosive effects of ethanol in his fuel caused a bit of the fuel cap to flake off into the tank and plug a fuel line.

The ultra-light lost power, clipping tree tops on the south side of the 3200 block of Mendoza Road and crashing on the north side of Mendoza, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

"I had to bring it down as safe as I could. My pride more than anything else was hurt," Roman said.

"I just got it done," he said of constructing the new wooden aircraft. "It was designed to save the pilot if anything happened. I had a four-way safety harness."

Not so fortunate were pilots of two other experimental craft that crashed in recent weeks.

James Clendenen, 82, a casual acquaintance of Roman's, died instantly when his ultra light aircraft crashed New Year's Eve.

Clendenon's ultralight plane crashed off Buckeye Road and Grass Farm Road in northern Manatee County.

On Jan. 12, the area recorded another fatal crash of an experimental plane on the campus of New College of Florida. The amphibian plane crashed shortly after takeoff from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

The pilot, John William Ardoyno, 70, of Hayward, Wis., survived the crash, but not the flames that engulfed the Seawind 3000 aircraft. A 63-year old passenger was critically burned.

Witnesses told investigators they saw the plane clip a tree and erupt in flames before crashing to the ground behind the college's science complex.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the New College crash.

The NTSB recently reported that the total number of deaths in aviation increased from 476 to 494 in 2011, with about 90 percent involving fatalities in general aviation.

Roman, who grew up in this area and attended Palmetto High School, said he would fly again.

"Without hesitation," he said.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1

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