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Plane Crashes into Florida RV Park; Pilot Dies

March 6, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

A small home-built airplane crashed into the Wild Frontier RV Park in northwest Ocala, Fla., at about 3 p.m. today (March 6).
Ocala Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Brian Stoothoff said the pilot was killed in the crash. He said no one was inside either of the two RVs hit by the small fixed-wing aircraft. There was only one confirmed fatality, according to Ocala.com.
The call came in at 2:56 p.m., Stoothoff said, and firefighters were on scene at 2:57 p.m.
Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Mike Thomas said he was on Magnolia Avenue when he saw a plane going east to west and then heard a pop. Then, Thomas said, he saw the wings tip several times back and forth.
Then the plane turned north and rapidly descended out of his line of sight.
Thomas got in his patrol car and called dispatch. By that time, Thomas said he saw black smoke rising quickly.
He arrived at the scene and saw Marion County sheriff’s deputies and local fire officials already there.
Frances Lynch, a winter resident from St. Joseph, Mo., was in an RV belonging to her and her husband just 20 to 25 yards from the crash site.
Lynch said she was inside their RV in the kitchen area when she heard a big boom. When she looked out the kitchen window, she saw a large ball of fire.
She said the explosion lifted both RVs at the crash site up into the air.
“Oh, my God, the motorhome is blown up,” Lynch remembered saying.
“If it would have come straight,” she said, “we would have been hit.”
Lynch said there is 4- to 6-inch hole knocked in the back of their RV, as if a projectile struck it.
Ann Moore said she was in an RV next to one of the two that got burned during the crash. She had just gotten out of the shower when she heard a loud explosion that shook the ground.
Moore said she looked outside and saw something silver. She immediately got dressed, grabbed her cell phone and car keys and went outside.
Moore said someone told her to quickly move her vehicle away from the crash site, which she did.
“It was such a horrible noise,” Moore said. “It scared me so bad.”
Also at the RV park, Cathy Cooper said she was sitting on a porch about 100 yards away from where the crash occurred.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a fireball and an explosion. She and her husband and others got up and ran toward the crash to see if they could help. But, she said, the fire “was too hot.”
“It happened so fast,” said Cooper, who was still visibly shaking. Cooper said she and her husband had spent the night in the park.
Tony Kubis, an employee at the RV park, said he was driving a golf cart when he heard a loud bang and saw smoke. He drove toward the smoke and saw the tail of what looked like a vintage airplane.
He said there was a man trying to get to his RV near the fire because he was concerned about his dog inside. The man did back out his RV.
At about that time, Kubis said, there were several more explosions, and he got everybody to move back.
Battalion Chief Stoothoff said the Federal Aviation Administration has been contacted about the accident.
According to Kathleen Bergen, communications manager for the FAA in Atlanta, the aircraft was a home-built S-51 experimental aircraft registered to John A. Hambleton, of Ocala.
The Stewart 51, or S-51D, as it is commonly known, is an all-aluminum replica of the North American P51-D Mustang at about 70% scale, according to the Experimental Aircraft Association. It is about 22 feet long, 9 feet tall and has a 26-foot, 9-inch wingspan.
The planes, commonly called “experimental aircraft,” are sold as kits to plane enthusiasts, who have to assemble them.

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