4:30 p.m. Wednesday August 3 UPDATE By Ashley Knight
Paddle surfing, sunbathing and search crews could all be found in the Gulf of Mexico today. Not a sight you normally see on your vacation. Crews were out searching for the plane of 63 year old Al Habetz who was flying an eight passenger twin engine Cessna and crashed in the water off Destin last night.
“And we were at the porch eating and we saw all the police boats go flying by and didn’t know what happened and then we saw the helicopters circling around,” says Tonya O’Kelley, visiting from Jacksonville.
Officials with the Okaloosa County Sheriffs office say Habetz had dropped off his passengers at the nearby airport. Standing on the beach, it’s not unusual to hear and see small planes taking off. The crash happened around 8:30 last night. Elton Danos is visiting from Lafayette Louisiana, the same town the pilot was from.
“They had coast guard, everything out there. They had like seven cop boats, three helicopters, a plane flying over it. You could just see the lights in the distance in about a half mile radius,” says Danos.
A lot of folks only remember all of the fire trucks, ambulances, first responders coming as quickly as they could to this area, but I talked with one couple who actually remember hearing the plane as it hit the water. =Gregory Wykoff is from Ft. Worth, Texas.
“It sounded like a clapping noise. We saw the green light. She thought she saw a firework and she said oh people are going to get in trouble. And then all of a sudden I look over cause we’re on the 10th floor and I saw the green light and it went down and it sounded like a clap. Something unusual.”
Wykoff says police and EMTs were here within ten minutes.
“We went down here walking along with our flashlights trying to illuminate everything for them,” says Wykoff.
He says crews were out here well past midnight.
The Cessna 414 was discovered around 2:00 p.m. Wednesday. Sea Tow of Destin will be bringing up the wreckage Thursday morning.
6:20 a.m., Wednesday, August 3:
The pilot of a twin engine eight-seat Cessna killed when the plane crashed into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Destin around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday has been identified as 63-year old Al Habetz of Louisiana according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office.
The Coast Guard, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission launched boats to begin a search shortly after multiple people reported either seeing a plane crash into the water or hearing the impact. The Coast Guard recovered the pilot’s body and no other people were believed to have been on board the aircraft.
Authorities have marked the site where they believe a large part of the plane is located underneath the surface and are returning to the scene this morning.
Habetz had reportedly flown into the Destin Airport earlier in the day, dropped off passengers, and was returning to Louisiana when the crash took place.
4:15 am UPDATE: A man’s body has been recovered following the crash of a small airplane off the coast of Destin.
The craft went down near Silver Beach Towers and the Breakers Condominiums at least a half mile or more from the shoreline around 8:30 p.m.
Investigators are working to confirm the identity of the man, believed to be the pilot of the aircraft according to the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Department.
Initial indications are that the plane had left the Destin Airport prior to the accident.
The National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the cause of the crash.
First responders are on the scene, asking individuals to stay off the beach in the area in case debris washes ashore.