One person was killed and another seriously injured Saturday afternoon when their amphibian aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff at Sarasota/Bradenton International Airport, officials say.
The Seawind 3000 aircraft, a composite, single-engine, four-seat amphibian, went down on New College of Florida property near the R.V. Heiser Natural Science Complex, said Fredrick (Rick) J. Piccolo, president and CEO of the airport.
Witnesses to the crash said they saw the plane clip a tree and erupt in flames before crashing to the ground behind the science complex. Smoke billowed from the area as firefighters extinguished the flames, leaving behind a heap of charred metal.
No one on the ground was injured, officials said.
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The two men took off about 3:30 p.m. from the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in the home-built Seawind. The plane crossed U.S. 41, but went down just across the street from the end of the runway.
“I’ve never seen a plane fly that low,” said Steven Shivers, of Manatee County. “We saw a guy running out of the plane. I couldn’t believe it.”
The survivor, whose name has not been released, is a 63-year-old man from Michigan, said Capt. Susan Pearson, spokeswoman for the Sarasota Fire Department. He was airlifted from the scene and taken to the burn unit at Tampa General Hospital.
“He sustained second and third degree burns over most of his body, but he was conscious and is in critical condition,” Pearson said.
The pilot was dead when responders arrived on scene, but witnesses said he lived through the impact. He is from out-out-town, but no other information is available.
Fredrick J. Piccolo, president and CEO of the airport, said he doesn’t believe a flight plan was filed.
“I think they were just flying locally,” Piccolo said. “My understanding is they just had trouble with the engine. It wasn’t getting lift.”
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the crash.