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Single-engine pilot survives crash off Boca Grande

By Staff | Aug 30, 2008

When Troy Powell of Troy Powell Carpentry and his crew of two, Patrick and Eric Stone, went to do some trim work on a home in the 4000 block of Shore Lane on Gasparilla Island Friday, the day did not turn out quite as planned.

It did turn out to be a wonderful day, though, as they came to the aid of a pilot standing on the wing of his plane as it slowly sank into the Gulf.

Patrick also earned the sobriquet of “rescuer.”

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office and Boca Grande Fire Department soon arrived on the scene. The SO had been “notified of a possible plane crash near Boca Grande,” according to a report. The location was listed as near 4043 Shore Lane.

The report reads, in part:

“Upon arrival, it was revealed the single-engine aircraft was submerged approximately 100 feet offshore. Two citizens swam to assist a man seen swimming away from the fixed-wing airplane. Emergency medical responders arrived and the presumed pilot of the aircraft was transported to Charlotte Regional Medical Center for treatment. He is reported to be in stable condition.”

One of the two men rushing to the rescue was Patrick Stone. His co-workers said  his quick thinking brought much help to the pilot, around 11 a.m.

“We were all standing on the deck when we saw this very low plane coming from the north and going south,” Patrick recalled, shortly after the rescue. “The nose of the plane dipped in the water a little bit, and, by that time, we were already running toward the accident.”

Patrick had remembered seeing a surf board in the garage of the house they were working on. Quickly, he ran inside to take it with him. He knew they would need some flotation device to bring back the man who was standing on the wing, some 100 feet off shore.

The sole occupant of the plane was facing the sea and did not see the men coming to his aid. With the surf board to grab onto, they returned to shore safely with the pilot, before the plane had completely disappeared. Only the tail remained visible above the water.

Patrick Stone said the pilot told them he had sent a “mayday” to Fort Myers before hitting the water. “Mayday” is an international word meaning help is needed for an emergency. The word comes from the French “m’aidez,” which means “help me.”

The early report from the Sheriff’s Office also reads:

“The aircraft is registered in Punta Gorda and additional details surrounding the incident are pending further inquiry. Once family has been contacted and the man’s name confirmed an update will be provided. Details as to what occurred are still being confirmed at this time. The FAA has been notified.”