Plane Crash During Takeoff Leaves 3 Hurt

Aug. 20, 2007

Aug. 19--CLEARWATER -- A small private plane crashed while taking off Saturday morning from Clearwater Airpark, injuring the three people aboard and shutting down the airport.

The six-seat, single-engine Beech Bonanza took off just after 10 a.m. and barely made it into the air before it came back to the ground and landed on its belly, sliding across the runway, said Elizabeth Daly-Watts, a spokeswoman for Clearwater Fire and Rescue Department.

The pilot, Ralph Gross, 66, was taken to Morton Plant Hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries, Daly-Watts said. The passengers, Hugh Edward Carmichael, 83, and Gary Mullen, 55, were treated at the scene for minor injuries, Daly-Watts said.

The airport was closed minutes after the crash. The Federal Aviation Administration will conduct an investigation to determine what happened, Daly-Watts said.

The plane did not catch fire and sustained minor damage, Daly-Watts said. There was no evidence of ground contamination from a minor fuel leak, she said.

The airport, at 1000 Hercules Ave., offers flight instruction and serves small, private and corporate planes.

Since 2000, there have been at least five crashes involving aircraft landing at or taking off from the airport, long a source of concern among some nearby residents.

Tribune researcher Diane Grey contributed to this report. Reporter Carlos Moncada can be reached at (727) 451-2333 or

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