Plane silent in landing that killed father, daughter on Florida beach

TAMPA Fla. Thu Aug 14, 2014 4:38pm EDT

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TAMPA Fla. (Reuters) - A plane that crash-landed on a Florida beach last month, killing a 9-year-old girl and her father, had lost engine power and narrowly missed other people as it glided silently toward shore, the National Transportation Safety Board said on Thursday.

The pilot tried to navigate the Piper plane around the people on Caspersen Beach in Venice on the southwestern Florida coast, according to a preliminary report on the July 27 crash.

A witness who watched the plane descend toward a group of beachgoers said the engine provided no noise for warning. Other witnesses heard a thump as it landed.

"It cleared half of the group, but apparently did not clear all of them," the report noted.

The plane struck Oceana Irizarry and her father, a U.S. Army sergeant celebrating his ninth wedding anniversary on a family vacation. Ommy Irizarry and his daughter were in water that was about four feet deep.

His wife, Rebecca, who was nearby, later told a federal aviation inspector that she saw the low-flying plane in her peripheral vision, but did not see her family get struck.

She pulled the unresponsive girl out of the water and tried to resuscitate her. A friend attempted to save her 36-year-old husband.

The pilot and a passenger, both uninjured, got out of the plane when it stopped about 200 feet away. A woman shouted to them for a cell phone.

"It was only then that he learned that the airplane had hit the father and his daughter," the report noted.

Ommy Irizarry, who was stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia, died that day. His daughter died later from her injuries.

They had been vacationing at the beach along with two other Irizarry children, his mother and another couple.

The plane, which had not been flown in over three months, was 10 to 15 minutes into its flight when it lost engine power, according to the safety board.

A final report is not expected until next year.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Jim Loney)

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