St. Petersburg, Florida -- A pilot was killed in a nose dive crash Sunday in St. Petersburg. Management tells 10 News that the local pilot had a passion for planes.
70-year-old Donald Thomasson was pulled from the water unresponsive after the banner plane he was flying took a nose dive into the water 75 yards off the coast.
His boss remembers him as a great pilot and friend.
ORIGINAL STORY: St. Petersburg plane goes down; pilot dead
"The important part is we lost a good guy today, he will be deeply missed," said Ryan Hyatt.
The pilot flew a yellow piper property of Aerial Banners Incorporated. We're told he took to the skies every weekend.
"We were searching for the yellow banner tow line that was found, pulled on it, and turned it over to the Coast Guard," said witness Scott Trefz.
Witnesses say they found the wreckage, but felt helpless. Coast Guard officials were the first on the scene, arriving in just minutes, but witnesses say it took over a half hour before anyone attempted a rescue.
"They were screaming at the other boats to get in and save him, saying, 'we only had 6 minutes to do that'. Excuse me, but why don't they take off their life vests and get in the water and save this guy?'" asked boater Mike Burke.
"We were helpless...[it was] heartbreaking [just] sitting around and seeing all the officials and nobody was doing nothing but on the radio," said witness Karen Nash.
So what took so long?
FWC, Pinellas Sheriff's Office, St. Petersburg Police, even the Coast Guard were there. The short answer: no one had dive gear.
The plane was submerged about 25 feet deep in murky water. Officials say they had to wait for St. Pete Fire Rescue to mobilize their crew from land to water.
Witnesses say that's unacceptable.
"Heart wrenching, sad -- policies need to change," said Trefz.
The cause of the crash and the cause of death are not yet known.
"He was a great guy. Condolences are with the family."
The plane is expected to be pulled from the water Monday. Everyone hopes to learn more from that. The NTSB will be investigating.
This was also the same location of a previous crash back in March of 2014: An advertising banner plane crashed into the water near Albert Whitted
Stories you may find interesting: