2 survive watery plane crash
By MONIQUE FIELDS
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001
A single-engine Cessna sputtered as it crossed St. Andrews Island Bridge in Belleair Thursday, a few miles from the Clearwater Executive Airpark.
Pilot Scott E. Walker spotted a patch of green on the Belleair Country Club Golf Course and circled around for a landing.
Walker, 43, of Largo, was taken to Morton Plant Hospital with minor injuries. His passenger, son Scott Patrick Walker, 19, declined medical attention.
"They had engine trouble. They attempted to land on the course, (but) they were hampered by heavy winds and fell short of the golf course," said Belleair police Officer Jeff Clark.
The elder Walker was heading north when he ditched the plane just shy of a concrete sea wall. He started having engine trouble at 1,200 feet, said Craig Hare, Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services coordinator.
Just before the crash, Walker appeared to fly no higher than nearby palm trees, said Dave Winton of Clearwater Beach, who saw the crash.
The plane headed for the water at a slight angle and made a "pretty loud thud" on impact.
"I was hoping he wouldn't hit the sea wall. Had it been 20 more feet, he would have hit the sea wall," Winton said.
Residents, construction workers and others rushed along the water.
They were relieved when they saw father and son jump out of the plane seconds after it crashed.
They were further comforted when they saw the two men make at least two trips back into the shallow water to retrieve personal items.
Walker was being treated for his injuries and couldn't be reached for comment late Thursday. His son declined to comment.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration were notified of the accident and will investigate, Clark said.
It wasn't clear what caused the plane's trouble while en route from Key West. A blustery wind had kicked up along the water. Police say the fuel gauge indicated there was about a quarter-tank of fuel left when the plane hit the water.
Aviation records show the plane is registered to Walker.
It was not his first problem at the controls of a plane.
In 1997, Walker took a dunk in Lake Seminole when the seaplane he was piloting flipped. Walker was taxiing on the lake to test new equipment on the single-engine Coyote when a float broke loose.
The plane, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, skipped and turned over into the water.
Four months earlier, one of his aircraft's pontoons collapsed as he was landing in Lake Seminole. Walker escaped injury in both incidents, which were reported to the Federal Aviation Administration.
- Staff writers J. Nealy-Brown and Leon M. Tucker and researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.
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