Duette resident describes witnessing plane crash
Two people were killed after a twin-engine plane crashed Saturday afternoon in a wooded area of northeastern Manatee County, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
At about 1:30 p.m., deputies were called to a report of a plane crash near State Road 37, just north of State Road 62.
The plane was destroyed, and there were no survivors of the crash, said sheriff’s spokesman Randy Warren.
The bodies of two people have been recovered — the pilot and a passenger — but their identities have not been released, he said.
The plane is registered out of California, Warren said. Authorities said the Hawker Beachcraft BE-60 took off from Sarasota Bradenton International Airport at about 1 p.m., but no flight plan had been filed.
As a result of the plane crash, a wildfire erupted in the area, and S.R. 37 near S.R. 62 was closed.
By just before 6 p.m., the wildfire had been 100 percent contained to 30 affected acres, according to Florida Forest Service spokesman Patrick Mahoney.
At the height of the response, there were 25 to 30 first responders at the scene, according to Manatee County Public Safety Director Bob Smith.
“Initially there was fire on both sides of the road that responders were working to put out to get to the wreckage,” Smith said.
Saturday’s weather — including low humidity and brisk winds — provided favorable conditions for a wildfire to quickly spread.
Deputies were called to the scene moments after a witness who lives near the crash called 911.
David Hayman said he was taking a stroll in his backyard when he heard the plane and looked up to see that it nose-diving toward the ground. Less than a minute later, Hayman said he heard a pop as the plane made impact.
“Next thing we knew, just heard that explosion,” Hayman said.
Hayman said he ran toward the scene intending to help victims, but the wreckage instantly became engulfed in flames.
“But there was nothing left,” Hayman said. “There was nothing left. The whole plane was completely melted down.”
He said he looked for the tail number, but no traces remained. He did take a photo of the engine, the only recognizable part of the plane by the time he arrived.
“It was really hot,” Hayman said. “I had to run through a lot of stuff to get in there real quick.”
The National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause of the crash, and Federal Aviation Administration investigators were on the scene Saturday, authorities said. NTSB investigators are expected to visit the crash scene Sunday, according the sheriff’s office.
Manatee County detectives and deputies began the initial investigation and then assisted federal officials.