According to the Coast Guard, Good Samaritans rescued four passengers from the wreckage

By Anastasia Dawson and Suhauna Hussain

St. PETERSBURG — A small airplane crashed in the waters off St. Petersburg’s Albert Whitted Airport on Wednesday, rescue crews said.

The single-engine plane, believed to be a small Cessna 172, went down just after 12:30 p.m., according to the U.S. Coast Guard’s St. Petersburg sector. Petty officers Jeremy Buchanan and Aaron Massey were already out on the water conducting training exercises when they said they noticed a large splash just off the airport’s runway about 100 yards off shore, near the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina.

A local boater took notice, too, and was the first to reach the site of the crash. He and about 3 others who were fishing that morning managed to pluck all four of the plane’s passengers from the water, Massey said. The passengers, all men, were then transferred to the Coast Guard crew’s rescue boat, he said.

It all happened so quickly nobody managed to catch the rescuers names.

“They were shaken up as you would be surviving a plane crash, but they were extremely grateful,” Buchanan said.

Authorities are still unsure what caused the crash but the Coast Guard crew said they believe it was attempting to take off from the airport. All were taken to a nearby Coast Guard base where they were treated for their injuries. One passenger was taken to Bayfront Health’s St. Petersburg hospital, but was transported as a “non-emergency patient,” St. Petersburg Fire Rescue spokesman Lt. Steve Lawrence said.

The plane was left behind and by Wednesday afternoon was sinking into Tampa Bay, about 100 yards off the shoreline.