Two die in Clearwater plane crash

Published February 15, 2005

CLEARWATER - Two people died after a small single-engine plane crashed between two houses in the Grovewood neighborhood Tuesday afternoon.

Witnesses say they heard the sound of a engine overhead when they noticed the small plane, a Beechcraft Debonair, having trouble around 5 p.m. Law enforcement officials confirmed that two people who were onboard the plane were dead, but did not give further details.

The plane, a popular model for flight enthusiasts, came in at a 45-degree angle, clipped the roofs of two homes and then crumpled upon impact two miles south of the Clearwater Airpark.

The pilot and passenger were killed on impact, said Bill Morris, director of the Clearwater Airpark.

No one on the ground was injured. A house at 2210 Grovewood Rd. sustained most of the damage.

Morris wasn't sure if the plane was taking off or landing from Clearwater Airpark.

"Right now, we've got just the fact that it hit and did significant damage to one home with no injuries to the occupants," Morris said. "There was minor damage to the home next to it. The plane is pretty well wrecked."

Neighbor Joe Harra didn't have to look up to realize the plane overhead was having trouble. The retired Navy pilot could hear it.

"It was a very rough running engine," said Harra, 78. "When I saw it go between the houses, it did not appear to be under control at all. Maybe he had some control because it hit directly between the two houses."

Harra lives three houses down from the crash site. He was outside vacuuming his car when he heard the noise, looked up and saw a plane "plummeting" from the sky.

"There was no way anyone was going to survive that one," Harra said.

Marie Craven was sipping Red Rose tea when she heard the sound of an engine across the street.

"I heard the plane come in low and then next thing we heard was an explosion," Craven said. "I did not realize it was a plane crash."

Craven went out to take a look while her son dialed 911.

It was not the first accident near the small, city-owned airpark.

The most recent was on Aug. 21, 2003, when a Piper Navajo crashed into a neighborhood near Clearwater Airpark. Two people on board were killed and third passenger was critically injured.

In 2002, a Piper Cherokee crash-landed near Patricia Avenue and Beltrees Street, bouncing into traffic and slamming into a moving Hyundai. No one was badly injured.