ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- 10 News cameras were first on the scene just minutes after a single engine plane nose dived on take off from Albert Whitted Airport.
The impact was so severe it crushed the front of the plane, including the cockpit, and caused it to flip onto its back.
Photo Gallery: Small plane crash at Albert Whitted Airport
Photo Gallery: St. Pete plane crash cleanup
Emergency crews raced onto the tarmac, runway 25 West, to find people trying to pull the pilot out of his seat. People close to the airport say it sounded like a bomb exploded.
"We heard a big boom and then lots of sirens," said witness Will Roberts.
According to police, the owner and pilot of the plane, 79-year-old James Allen Finnegan, was pulled from the wreckage bleeding and unresponsive. He was transported to Bayfront Medical Center, but later died.
The passenger was 37-year-old flight instructor James Patrick Murphy, who was transported to the hospital for treatment of non life-threatening injuries.
St. Pete Fire Rescue said although Finnegan had piloting experience, he hadn't flown in years. He was getting a refresher course from Murphy, but something happened just seconds after liftoff.
"From witnesses, they said it was about a hundred feet in the air, heard some engine sputtering, and then it nose dived right on the engine, impacting with the runway," said St. Pete Fire Rescue's Joel Granata.
Airport employees, including pilots, watched as the rescue unfolded, clearly shaken by the crash. Rescue teams secured the site.
As night fell, FAA investigators suspend their investigation, but requested police presence to preserve the crash scene until morning.