Investigators are trying to figure out what caused an ultralight plane to crash at a rural Spring Hill airport, killing the pilot.
William George Athey, 53, of Odessa, died in the crash, which happened around 8:30 a.m. at the Pilot Country Airport off of State Road 52.
According to Pasco County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Doug Tobin, the preliminary investigation shows that the crash appears to be accidental.
A mangled mess of metal and plastic is all that was left of the single seat plane. Officials say it was Athey’s first flight.
Airport officials say he was reportedly practicing crow hops, which are a series of short takeoffs and landings, but during his final landing he made some kind of mistake.
Tobin said the only eyewitness account said Athey appeared to be fine as he was approaching Pilot Country, but then the plane became entangled in the wires.
Airport officials say Athey had built the used ultralight and had fixed it up and had just started taking lessons.
Fellow pilot Lacy Kaye was also taking lessons and had met Athey on Friday when she came to the airport to do some repair work on her plane.
"Oh yeah, we all fly in the same circles," Kaye said. "There are several ultralight airports around and we all go to different fly-ins."
Officials say even though the pilot crashed into the power lines early this morning, they left the plane in the power lines for hours.
"There was the danger of the high-voltage that the fire rescue could not go up and touch the airplane,” said Tobin.
Hours later, officials finally managed to untangle the ultralight and then towed it away. Electricity crews had to turn the power off to remove the ultralight from the power lines. The power has now been turned back on.
The airport is now back to normal but there is a sense of loss among other pilots who feel that sense of camaraderie.
"It's heart-breaking,” said Kaye, who looked forward to seeing Athey again. “I don't know of anyone in the aviation community that doesn't have a heart-felt emotion that goes on here when they hear of a pilot losing their life in any condition.”
Officials say the pilot died upon impact. His body has been taken to the medical examiner’s office to determine the exact cause of death.
Officials had to block a section of State Road 52 off to the public for a good part of the morning and it is now re-opened.