St. Petersburg, Florida -- A dive team assembled on the water south of the St. Petersburg Albert Whitted Airport on Labor Day morning, preparing to locate and remove a plane from the water. Crews went to tow the aircraft around 12:30 p.m.
Once on shore, the plane was placed in a hangar at Albert Whitted. NTSB investigators are on scene.
The Piper plane crashed into the water about 75 yards south of the airport's seawall on Sunday afternoon around 3:00. 70-year-old Donald Thomasson was the pilot. His body was found inside the cockpit seat when divers went down to pull him up to the surface.
His plane quickly submerged 25 feet into the water. Witnesses at Lassings Park, south of the airport, said they watched the plane go up and come back down fast. Other boaters said the Coast Guard arrived in less than 10 minutes to the crash scene, but then did nothing to try to go after the pilot.
St. Petersburg police said they are partnered with the Coast Guard and St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue. Fire and Rescue have the only certified dive team in the area. They were called to the scene and within 30 minutes were down in the water.
"They followed the procedure and the procedure went exactly as it is supposed to," said St. Petersburg police PIO Mike Puetz.
He also said there are no dive teams on standby.
"This was an unusual crash, because the plane nosedived so deeply into the water; most times planes float when they hit the water giving the Coast Guard time to arrive and help save the pilot and or the crew without needing a dive team."
The plane's company, Aerial Banners Inc., is responsible for removing the plane from the water. The FAA is investigating.