The pilot of a small airplane that crash-landed and killed a U.S. Army sergeant and his 9-year-old daughter said he did not see anyone on the beach before making his emergency stop.
Ommy Irizarry, 36, and his daughter, Oceana Irizarry, were walking along Caspersen Beach when the pilot, Karl Kokomoor, made the emergency landing. They were likely hit by the plane or debris, officials said. Ommy died Sunday. The girl was airlifted to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office learned of her death this morning.
The Venice Municipal Airport received a distress call around 2:45 p.m. Sunday that the plane couldn’t make it back to the airport. The plane reportedly lost power, said Kathleen Bergen, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
Kokomoor released a statement through the pastor of his church. The 57-year-old tried to restart his plane’s engine but those efforts failed, according to the statement. He says he looked for a remote area to land and steered away from a group of people on Dog Beach.
“With the plane quickly descending and little ability to make any major turn, I spotted an area on the shore on which I did not see anyone, and landed the plane. The plane hit the water to rest with the nose down at the waters edge. It was only after I landed and we exited the plane did I realize there were people on the beach. I never saw them. I am deeply, deeply sorry,” Kokomoor says in the statement.
Neither the pilot or his passenger, 60-year-old David Theen, were injured. Both men are from Englewood.
“Words cannot express the sorrow I feel over the loss of Ommy Irizarry, this father and soldier, and his beautiful daughter, Oceana. I sent my heartfelt apologies to the Irizarry family for my role in this tragic accident and I will keep Rebecca Irizarry and her family in my prayers for as long as I live,” Kokomoor says in the statement, promising to cooperate in the continuing Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board investigation.
Ommy Irizarry was stationed at Ft. Stewart, Ga. He and his wife, Rebecca, were celebrating their ninth wedding anniversary Sunday during a family vacation.
He wrote a Facebook post to mark the anniversary.
“They say time flies when you are having fun. It is true. Thank you for being with me through thick and thin ... I am very happy and can’t wait to see what the next 100 have in store for us,” he wrote.
Oceana was excited to start fourth grade, family members of the victims said in a statement.
She “was a beautiful, intelligent and kind-hearted little girl. She was a natural artist who loved to learn,” the statement says.
Ommy “was a beloved husband, father, son, brother, friend and soldier. He lit up the room whenever he entered and was devoted to his family.
“There are no words to describe the suffering we are experiencing. Their loss is devastating to our family and to everyone who knew them. Thank you to our many loved ones, friends and strangers for your outpouring of love and prayers.”
The family members also thanked the medical personnel, All Children’s Hospital and people at the beach who helped.
On Sunday, a family friend cried as she called 911 and described the scene. Screams and wailing could be heard in the background. Another man told a dispatcher about the little girl’s condition.
“She’s breathing a little right now,” the man said. “Rapid pulse and difficult breathing. She’s unconscious.”
Ommy Irizarry’s mother was treated at Venice Regional Bayfront Health for injuries unrelated to the crash and was previously released, said Wendy Rose, a spokeswoman for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.