Andy Fillmore – For the Star-Banner
WEIRSDALE — A small plane with two people onboard crashed into Lake Weir on Monday. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that one person died, but there was no word as of 6 p.m. about the other person.
In a statement, the Federal Aviation Administration said the Pitts Model 12, which is a biplane, crashed into the lake.
“The Federal Aviation Administration will release the tail number of the aircraft after investigators verify it at the accident site,” the statement says. “The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate. The NTSB will be in charge of the investigation and will provide additional updates. Neither agency identifies people involved in aircraft accidents or incidents.”
Josh and Mandy Hires, from Dixie County, were boating on Lake Weir when they looked up to see the plane “spinning out of control,” as Mandy Hires put it.
Josh Hires said he thought the pilot was doing a stunt. But the plane, which he described as a yellow biplane, crashed into the water.
The said they saw a man eject from the plane, but his parachute did not open. Josh Hires estimated the man jumped from 200 to 300 feet above the water.
“Once it (the plane) hit the water we hurried as fast as we could,” Josh Hires said. They found pieces of the plane floating in the water. The engine was still running upon impact.
They put the body in their boat and headed to the dock, where an ambulance already was waiting.
“It was hard…sad. I thought I could save him,” an emotional Mandy Hires said.
In a Facebook video announcement, Sgt. Paul Bloom from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that one person had died and said his agency’s divers were heading into the lake to continue the investigation. He said his agency received the call about 1 p.m.