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Authorities investigating Sunday plane crash

By Staff | Dec 3, 2009

A Cape Coral man piloting an experimental, single-engine plane crashed into Gulf waters near Blind Pass on Sunday afternoon, escaping with only minor injuries thanks to some fast-thinking boaters who came to his rescue only moments after impact.
According to an incident report issued Monday by the Sanibel Police Department, Kleber Dunklin Murrey, 55, of Northwest Ninth Place, was traveling eastbound above Captiva toward Sanibel at 70 mph to 75 mph, approximately 100 feet to 150 feet off of the ground.
Murrey attempted to steer the plane to the left, in the direction of Sanibel, when he lost engine power. Once the engine stalled and Murrey was unsuccessful at restarting the vehicle, the plane dove nose down into the Gulf.
At 1:40 p.m., several 911 calls came in to the Sanibel Police Department reporting the crash. Units responding to the area discovered the aircraft partially submerged between 100 feet and 150 feet from shore, approximately 500 yards east of Blind Pass.
Prior to police arriving on scene, Murrey was pulled out of the aircraft by Theis and Connie Pickenpack of Naples, who were boating nearby.
Officers John Jakubowski and Joe Nygaard of the Sanibel Fire Rescue District were transported by a jetskiier, who was not identified in the report, to the Pickenpack’s vessel, where they assessed Murrey for injuries.
“As we were approaching the beach, all we could see was the tip of a wing and the tip of the tail,” said Sanibel Fire Rescue District Lt. Bert Kinney, who was among the first responders along with Nygaard and firefighter Tim Carroll. “(Murrey) was complaining about some leg pain and back pain.”
Kinney added that the pilot said that the plane hit the water at about 70 mph.
“If that’s the case, I’d say he was very lucky,” he said. “With that kind of accident, it’s amazing that he survived it and can walk away with only a few injuries.”
In addition to the Sanibel Police Department and Sanibel Fire Rescue District, responding agencies included the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Coast Guard, Captiva Fire Department, Lee County Emergency Medical System, Sanibel SERAT, U.S. Fish & Wildlife and the Florida Wildlife Commission.
Murrey was transported via boat to shore, where he was transferred to the Captiva Fire Department’s Gator utility vehicle. He was then airlifted to Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers.
No word on his condition was available Tuesday afternoon.
Kinney offered his thanks the anonymous jetskiier who assisted in the rescue effort.
“He helped us out a lot,” he said. “If he reads this, then he’ll know how much we appreciate what he did.”
The aircraft wreckage, which had fully submerged shortly after the accident, was pulled ashore late Sunday evening.
The National Transportation Safety Board was contacted and is investigating the crash, the second aircraft accident near Sanibel within months.
MEDSTAR 1, Lee County’s critical care air ambulance service, went down Aug. 17 in the waters off of Upper Captiva with three crew members aboard. No serious injuries were reported.