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Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014

Pilot escapes crash in Boca Ciega Bay

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Published:   |   Updated: December 27, 2013 at 05:36 PM

ST. PETERSBURG – As he piloted his Cessna 150, Thomas Beaman thought he might be having engine trouble, so he decided to return to Albert Whitted Airport, authorities said. He thought he might crash-land, so he decided to fly over water, not land, because it’s safer.

The 61-year-old St. Petersburg man went through a mental checklist of what any pilot needs to do before landing in water. He put a flotation device on the seat next to his in the cockpit, and he cracked his door open before he descended into Boca Ciega Bay at about 1:20 p.m. Friday, just north of the Pinellas Bayway.

“You’re going down, and you just have to remember a few basic things of what to do,” Beaman told reporters afterward. “I tried to slow it down as much as I possibly could. Still, it was a lot more violent than I would have imagined.”

He estimated the plane might have been going 40 mph when it hit the water.

The plane was upside down by the time Beaman was poised to get out of it, and he believes he hit his head on the windshield. In any event, he never lost consciousness, he said, and started to swim. A boater saw the plane go down, and plucked him out of the water, said Capt. Rob Nugent of St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue.

Once brought ashore, Beaman refused treatment, Nugent said. He had a bump on his head and a laceration on his chin. (727) 215-6504.