Venice, Florida Beach Pilot Worried About Landing in Deep Water

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The pilot of a Cherokee that landed on or near the beach in Venice, Florida on July 27, killing two swimmers, told the NSTB he was worried that the aircraft would flip if landed in deep water. In a preliminary report (PDF) released on Thursday, the NTSB said the pilot, identified by local media as Karl Kokomoor, told investigators he saw groups of people along the beach and attempted to navigate around them. He said he aimed for a spot where he thought there weren't any people and landed in the water near the waterline.

However, the aircraft, a 1976 PA-28-181, struck and killed Ommy Irizarry, 36, and his nine-year-old daughter, Oceana, who were swimming in shallow water off the beach. Irizarry was killed at the scene, but his daughter died later in the hospital. The airplane came to rest in the waterline on Caspersen Beach, which is about a mile south of the extended centerline of runway 5/23 at Venice.

In an interview with the FAA, Kokomoor said the Cherokee departed from Buchan, a turf airport five miles south of Venice, about 10 to 15 minutes before the crash. Prior to takeoff, a runup revealed a mag drop of about 300 RPM, but a second check cleared the drop and the engine appeared to be functioning normally. Takeoff and climb were normal, but the engine lost power en route to Venice and after declaring an emergency on Venice's common traffic advisory frequency, the pilot set up for a beach or water landing.

Witness reports, which the NTSB characterized as consistent, reported that the airplane glided over groups of swimmers in the water before coming to rest without clearing all members of one group. When it impacted the water, the airplane turned sharply to the right before coming to rest partially on the beach. Neither the pilot nor the passenger was injured.

The NTSB's investigation thus far has turned up no obvious mechanical faults. The wings tanks were found with usable fuel with the left tank three-quarters full and the right about half full and vents and feed lines appeared unblocked. After straightening the prop, investigators were able to operate the aircraft's Lycoming O-360 throughout its throttle range up to about 2000 RPM. Investigators said they will be examining the engine electrical, induction and fuel delivery systems.