SARASOTA, Fla. - The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a plane crash that killed 70 year old pilot John Ardoyno and critically injured his passenger, 63 year old William Jackson. The aircraft went down on the campus of the New College of Florida, around 3:30 Saturday afternoon.
A good samaritan helped the passenger as he ran from the plane. Rich Parker, a former air traffic controller, says he's used to being around planes, but has never seen anything like this. He looked out of his back window and saw a plane falling from the sky. Parker said, As the plane was flying down, this one pine tree here. It clipped the top of it and took off about four or five small branches." Firefighters say the plane couldn't get enough altitude.
Parker says the aircraft, a SEAWIND 3000, wrapped around another tree. Firefighters say it took off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport headed for Venice Airport and couldn't get enough altitude. The plane crashed on campus, about a half mile away from the airport. Parker said, "At that point, it just exploded into flames. I mean there was not even a split second of hesitation. It was on fire."
Parker didn't hesitate either. He says he ran up just as the passenger, reportedly a 63 year-old man from Michigan, got out. He was covered in flames. Parker said, I yelled to him, 'Get away!' And got him to this ditch over here and got him to roll around. He didn't have a lot of clothes at that point. Just a pair of underpants. Everything else had been burned off."
Firefighters say the man suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns on most of his body. Once Parker knew he was safe, he went back for the pilot. "He was calling for me to help and reaching for me and struggling and laying on his back. But there was flames everywhere."
But, the flames were too intense. Parker said, "I yelled to him that I was sorry that I couldn't get any closer and I said a prayer and stayed with him."
NTSB investigator Ralph Hicks says the plane is made of fiberglass, which is why it burned so hot so quickly. He says the agency will be at the scene several more days.
Ardoyno was from Hayward, Wisconsin. Passenger Jackson is from Ann Arbor, Michigan. No students at the college were hurt and a school spokesperson says classes will resume Monday, as scheduled.
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