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Day 1: Demolition

An 'Extreme Makeover' crew descends on a house hit by a plane.

Published January 9, 2007


TAMPA - The biggest question on Davis Islands Monday - besides "Where's Ty Pennington?" - was what time would demolition on the Tate family's charred old home begin?

At 3 p.m., the demolition workers' white safety hats bobbed in unison as they marched, followed by dump trucks rumbling down E Davis Boulevard and up the driveway of No. 629. The crowd cheered.

Ready? Of course not. This was TV.

Finally, 78 minutes later, a producer for ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition had enough takes of Pennington, the design team leader, shouting into a handheld video recorder about tearing down the house.

The backhoe moved in, and the walls came tumbling down.

In less than a week, a new home will rise in its place, replacing the one that Tom and Cynthia Tate lost in June when an airplane careened off the runway at Peter O. Knight Airport. The Tates, along with their children Ryan, Tommy and Loren, have been whisked off to Costa Rica while the transformation takes place.

They've had their cell phones revoked and are prohibited from contacting relatives or friends to check on progress. The big reveal is set for Sunday afternoon.

"This is fabulous," said Betty "Liz" Tate, Tom Tate's mother. "It's really been tough for all of them."

She said her son has had many sleepless nights since the plane crash, which killed pilot Steve Huisman of Bradenton. Co-pilot Sean Launder sustained critical injuries but survived.

"There's just so much going through my head. I can't rest," Tom Tate's mother said he told her.

She stood in a staging area on the airport property, surrounded by family as rain clouds cleared and military aircraft flew overhead.

In March 2005, the ABC show rebuilt a home for James Dolan, a Seminole father who was blinded in a shooting at a St. Petersburg RadioShack.

Many on Davis Islands have come to know the Tate family through their business, Tate Brothers Pizza. Some Davis Islands residents, like Eileen Goldenberg, watched with the Tates as their home went up in flames in the summer. They planned to watch the construction of a new home they hoped would bring better memories.

"From now on, I'm never going to miss one episode of the show, especially now that I feel like I have a connection," Goldenberg said.

Diane Korman, a senior producer, described the Tates as a family "living the American dream."

The show receives about 1,000 applications a day, and the Tates were chosen among five Florida finalists. Now in its fourth season, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition picks one family in 25 different states, Korman said. The Tates knew they were finalists and were told only to be prepared for the possibility of a crew arriving on Sunday morning at their home.

Show producers received dozens of letters about the Tates before the family officially applied, Korman said. Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, who visited the Tates on the day of the accident, also wrote the show, Korman said.

The Tates stated in their application that a clerical error during a home refinancing caused a lapse of their homeowners insurance, Korman said.

"What should have been an easy fix was not," Korman said. "A family that would take any kid in was suddenly without a home."

The Tates have a reputation for being gracious hosts. While the show's design team won't give details about their plans, they have said that the Tates enjoyed sitting in lawn chairs on their rooftop to watch ships pass in Seddon Channel.

In five days, they may just have a new vantage point.

Times researcher Angie Drobnic Holan contributed to this story. Kevin Graham can be reached at 813 226-3433 or


Want to watch?

The Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Braveheart rally for the construction crew is today at 9 a.m. The production team will begin setting up for the scene at 6 a.m.

Because of the shoot, the northbound ramp onto Davis Islands from Bayshore Boulevard will be closed this morning.

The construction countdown begins at noon today, and work will take place around the clock until Saturday.

At noon Saturday, the construction team plans to hand over keys to the design team, which will have 24 hours to finish the work.

The Tate family is expected to arrive for the big reveal on Sunday between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Additional street closures will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday.

Spectators are invited to watch construction take place. The site is at 629 E Davis Blvd., which intersects with Channel Drive. To get there, follow E Davis Boulevard to the roadblocks. Tampa police or security guards will direct traffic where to go from there.

Producers say the Tate family episode will be broadcast on ABC in late March.

[Last modified January 9, 2007, 00:46:48]

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