Two people were seriously injured Monday morning when a small plane crash-landed at Vinoy Park in downtown St. Petersburg.
Around 10:30 a.m., a Piper PA-28 single-engine plane on approach to Albert Whitted Airport crashed at the park, located at 7th Avenue NE and Bayshore Drive near the historic Vinoy Hotel. The plane had taken off from Tallahassee carrying three men and a 17-year-old girl from Ireland, authorities said.
The pilot, 57-year-old Grant Jordan, and one of the passengers, 52-year-old Aloysius Ryan, were taken to Bayfront Health St. Petersburg as trauma alerts. Both were listed in serious but stable condition, according to St. Petersburg police.
The two other occupants, Eamonn Harnell, 48, and the girl, whose name wasn't given, sustained minor injuries.
According to police, Jordan said his engine failed as he began his approach, and he was forced to attempt a landing in the park, about a mile away from the runway.
A yoga class and mom's fitness class were underway in the area when the plane came down. No one on the ground was hurt.
A man listening to an audio book, Justin Destoppelaire, saw the plane clip a tree and called 911.
"Obviously, this all happened so quickly," Destoppelaire said. "Within seconds of when I first saw the plane, it hit the tree across the street. When it hit the tree, it caused the left landing wheel to veer left a little bit. The left landing wheel hit the ground - there is a major divot over by the sidewalk - and the plane rolled on its side and slid before coming to rest."
Destoppelaire said that much to his surprise, he saw the passenger door open and one of the occupants get out.
"It was a pretty hard landing," he said.
Jordan is a member of the "Ulster Flying Club" out of Ireland. The chairman of that club, John Hughes said Jordan and three others were flying to Key West. Hughes said in a statement;
"The crew involved in this accident are all popular members of the Ulster Flying Club and we are all devastated by the news. We all hope that their injuries are minor and that they will all make a complete and rapid recovery. The sense of adventure that brought them to the USA is a feature of our club and I'm sure this will do little to dim their enthusiasm
Hughes said you have to credit Jordan's skill for saving their lives. But emergency help was also very close.
"We had about 10 firefighters that were training in the Vinoy pool saw the plane flying low and were able to get there and help them out right away,” said Yolanda Fernandez, SPPD.
This is the second small plane crash near Albert Whitted Airport in just over two weeks. On Aug. 31, 70-year-old Donald Thomasson was killed when the small plane he was piloting crashed into the water of the small airport on the southeastern edge of downtown.