An investigation continues into a plane crash on McMullen Booth Road just north of Union Street that occurred about 4 a.m. March 22. The pilot died at the scene. His daughter and her friend were taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa with serious injuries. They were traveling from Chicago to St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.
CLEARWATER – A 53-year-old pilot and father died March 22 when his Piper PA-28 airplane crashed in the middle of McMullen Booth Road around 4 a.m, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
The 1980 single-engine plane took off from the Chicago area around 6:30 p.m. on March 21, carrying the pilot, Jeffrey Bronken; his daughter, Katherine Bronken, 15; and Katherine’s friend, Keyana Linbo, 15, all of Round Lake, Ill. The plane was on its way to the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and crashed just 7 miles short of its destination, according to Peter Knutson, spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB and the Federal Aviation Administration are leading the investigation as to why the plane crashed.
The pilot reportedly died at the scene, and the two teenagers were taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa by ambulance with serious injuries. Cristen Rensel, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, said on March 24 that the girls were still in the hospital, though she was unsure whether they were life threatening or not. The crash occurred just south of Enterprise Road, she said.
“The investigator (Bob Gretz with NTSB) said according to a preliminary, the pilot did report a fuel problem to air traffic control, and shortly thereafter hit a 1.25-inch power line above the highway,” Knutson said March 24. “He (Gretz) has not had time to review the tape of communications. We will be reviewing the audio. And we are still looking at everything. That is just one piece of the puzzle.”
Knutson added that the pilot was getting "flight following," which means he had a transponder code and Air Traffic Control would alert the plan if there is any conflicting flights in the air that they will have to navigate around.
Knutson estimated that a preliminary crash report could be ready as early as Friday, March 28, and an initial report should be available to view online within 10 days of the incident at www.ntsb.gov/aviationquery/AccList.aspx?month=3&year=2014. The final report in cases like this take longer, potentially up to a year, Knutson said.
The plane took out some power lines, Rensel said, and Sheriff’s Office investigators were on the scene until late in the afternoon.