Key West, FL Sightseeing Seaplane Crash, Mar 1996



Key West, Fla. -- (AP) -- A family's sightseeing tour ended in disaster when the seaplane they chartered crashed on takeoff in shallow water, just a few feet from this tourist city's waterfront hotels.
Four family members and the plane's pilot died in Sunday's crash. The lone survivor, a 10-year-old boy, was in critical condition today.
The plane banked sharply over two seaside hotels after takeoff, appearing to lose power while flying low toward a busy road and mall. The left wing hit the water and the plane flipped over.
"He saw he was going to go into the avenue, or the shopping center, so he pulled a hard right," said witness Roger Stetson, who watched the crash from his car. "I was concerned it would hit us or the bus in front of us."
"I thought it was a stunt," Faye Meeks, a tourist from Jacksonville, told The Miami Herald.
"Then I heard 'flop' and everybody began to run."
Witnesses said they saw black smoke coming from the plane's engine before the crash. Motorists and passers-by jumped into the water to try to right the plane. Then they began pulling out bodies.
Some bodies were scattered in the water on the eastern side of the island in front of the Holiday Inn and Econo Lodge Motels.
The Cessna 206, registered to Key West Seaplane Service, was left submerged upside down, with only one pontoon and part of the tail sticking out of the water. It sat only about 10 feet from shore and officials said it would not be moved until federal investigators inspect the crash site today.
Killed in the crash were LYNN BLACKBURN, 42, his wife, PAMELA, and two of their three children; 6-year-old JONATHAN and 3-year-old MARTHA. Ten-year-old MATTHEW was airlifted to Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he was in the trauma center with multiple injuries.
The pilot was identified as KEITH BELLOWS, of Gretna, La.
Friends and teachers in Charleston, S.C., where the family lived remembered the children fondly.
"They were neat kids, well-rounded with good parental support," said Linda O'Quinn, headmistress at the O'Quinn School, where all the children were enrolled. "They were ideal, they were an ideal family."
The seaplane service flies tourists to the nearby Dry Tortugas Islands. The area, popular with snorkelers and scuba divers, can be reached only by seaplane or boat.

Aiken Standard South Carolina 1996-03-18