St. Petersburg, Florida -- Emergency crews rushed to St. Pete's Albert Whitted Airport about 2 o'clock on Wednesday after a small plane crashed upon take off.

Witnesses say the single-engine plane sounded like it was in trouble. It stalled and then plowed nose first into the runway.

Photo Gallery:Small plane crash at Albert Whitted Airport
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Plane crash cleanup

"The plane was about 100 feet into the air, they [the witnesses] heard some engine sputtering and it just nose-dived right on the engine-impacted right into the runway," said Lt. Joel Granata, of St. Petersburg Fire Rescue.

The pilot and owner of the plane, 79-year-old James Finnegan, of St. Petersburg, died in the crash. According to police, Finnegan had some flight experience in his past and was taking a refresher course from instructor 37-year-old James Murphy.

Although injured himself, Murphy was able to drag Finnegan from the wreckage and he was already performing CPR on the pilot when rescue crews arrived. Murphy was taken to Bayfront Medical Center in stable condition.

Several pilots at the airport declined to talk on camera. They were clearly upset by the crash.

And people at a nearby restaurant on the USF campus said they could hear that something went terribly wrong.

"We heard a loud crash," said Will Roberts. "It was like a loud boom and then all of a sudden we heard all the sirens."

FAA investigators are on scene and on Thursday morning, they plan to continue their examination of the wreckage on the runway.

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