By TAMARA LUSH and CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD
© St. Petersburg Times,
ODESSA -- Two people were killed when a single-engine plane clipped power lines and crashed Wednesday night about 100 yards from the runway at Tampa Bay Executive Airport.
Pasco County Fire-Rescue and police arrived at the rural crash site just after the plane went down at 7:25 p.m.
The names of the pilot and the passenger were not released.
"It just happened so fast," said Paul Demars Jr. of Holiday, who was driving his truck when the plane crashed.
The plane, which was trying to land, swiped some power lines before it slammed into the ground just a few hundred feet off of State Road 54.
Gina Debs of New Port Richey was driving home from work on State Road 54 when she saw a huge, white object out her left window.
"Then my whole rear view mirror was bright blue," she said. "It was the strangest thing."
Debs said she turned her sport utility vehicle around and dialed 911.
"There's been an explosion, and I can't tell you what it is," Debs recalled telling the dispatcher.
Saul Edward of Odessa said he and his wife were sitting near a camp fire in their yard when they saw the plane approaching.
"That plane's awful low," he recalled saying to his wife. Moments later, the plane struck the ground.
Edward, who works at the airport, ran to the crash and opened the door of the plane.
"Is there anyone in there?" he screamed.
Edward said he saw a man in the co-pilot's seat and reached inside to check for a pulse. He said an ambulance arrived moments later and asked him to leave.
The plane did not catch on fire, authorities said, but sparks from the downed power lines started a fire in nearby trees and brush.
The smoke from the brush fire added a haze to the air, but the twisted wreckage was easily visible from State Road 54. Part of the plane appeared to be upside down.
Anita Brink, manager of the Tampa Bay Executive Airport, said the airport was closed when the crash happened, but landing there after hours is not uncommon. She said she did not know who was flying the plane.
In keeping with standard policy at private airports, she said, planes are supposed to notify the airport when they intend to make a landing. "This particular airplane, to the best of my knowledge, did not call during the day for permission," Brink said.
Based on its identification number, federal records show the plane was registered to De Land Aviation Inc., in DeLand. But De Land Aviation's former owner, Charles G. Presley of De Leon Springs, said Wednesday night that the company was dissolved and he sold the plane about a year ago to three men from the Orlando area. He didn't recall their names.