TAMPA — Ki Martin’s former neighbor remembered him as a friendly man who loved flying.
Richard Dover, of Hawthorne, said that Martin, who died after his single-engine airplane crashed Sunday afternoon at Tampa Executive Airport, was a careful pilot who was fond of flying over tiny Cue Lake, between Melrose and Hawthorne.
“He’d take off right over the water,” said Dover, who had not seen Martin, 53, in several years. “He did that all over the place. He did a lot of flying.”
Larry McKinnon, public information officer with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said that a motorist on Interstate 4, which runs by Tampa Executive Airport, called 911 after seeing Martin’s plane crash on the runway around 4 p.m.
“The plane was in the process of taking off,” McKinnon said. “I’m not sure if it got off the ground. We’re not sure if it was in route to a destination.”
The plane did not catch fire but 15 to 20 gallons of aviation fuel spilled onto the runway. Firefighters were able to contain the fuel and clean it up.
Dover said that Martin was as friendly as he was skilled in the cockpit.
“It would happen so quick,” Dover said of Martin’s flights over Cue Lake. “I could hear his plane, but by the time I’d get down there, he was gone. I remember him saying how the lake wasn’t that big, and he was always very careful about what he was doing. The length of the takeoff wasn’t that long, and there were pine trees 100 feet up that he would have to clear.”
The Federal Aviation Authority will investigate the cause of the crash, McKinnon said.