Officials identify pilot killed in Suwannee River crash, still investigating

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LIVE OAK, Fla. (WCTV) -- Officials have identified the pilot killed in a plane crash in Suwannee County Saturday afternoon.

Neal Harris, 61, of Kissimmee was the pilot killed when his plane clipped power lines and plunged into the Suwannee River Saturday, the Lafayette County Sheriff's Office says.

Witnesses told WCTV that Harris had successfully landed the plane on the river once, and was taking off again when he crashed.

The FAA says the plane was a Buccaneer II B single-engine aircraft and that Harris was the only person on board.

An NTSB investigation is ongoing. Officials say that it could take between 12 and 18 months to determine an official cause of the crash, but a preliminary report could be available within the next week.

WCTV will update this story as more information develops.

By: Erika Fernandez
January 15, 2017

SUWANNEE COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) -- A plane crash in Suwannee County left one man dead Saturday. The single-engine plane clipped nearby power lines, causing it to flip over into the Suwannee River.

Folks that live at Suwannee River Ridge say the pilot had already successfully landed the plane on the river once, but it was the second takeoff that ended in disaster.

It's a sight this community says they've never seen before: a small plane landing perfectly onto the Suwannee River.

"It was a spectacular thing to see and in a subsequent attempt, he was not as successful," says Cheryl Brinson.

Brinson met the pilot just before takeoff. She says neighbors made plans to have him for dinner later that evening.

"We were looking forward to having them for dinner as part of our ridge family and we're very saddened to learn that would not happen last night," Brinson says.

One eyewitness, an eight year-old boy, saw it all happen.

"We were back up on the ridge and he's down here on eye level so he was able to see the plane strike it. He starts hollering out, 'the plane crashed, the plane crashed!' and we thought he was kidding," says Damon Wooley, who lives nearby.

But it was no joke. Dawson Wooley saw the pilot take his final descent.

“I guess he thought he was clearing the power lines and he was going down low so he went up high and I guess his motor caught the thing and he flung down and flopped over and hit the water and sunk," says Dawson Wooley, who saw the plane crash.

By the time folks rushed to his aid, they say it was too late.

"We hope that the families know that we grieved for them. He was never by himself," Brinson says.

The name of the victim has not been released yet, but Suwannee Fire Rescue says the man was from Lake County. The FAA is investigating the incident.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News

UPDATE -- One person is dead after an afternoon plane crash in Suwannee County.

Suwannee County Fire Rescue were notified at 5:08 pm that a plane was in the Suwannee River.

Crews arrived to the scene and began search efforts for any passengers.

An investigation is ongoing.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
January 14, 2017

Suwannee -- A plane has crashed in Suwannee County.
The plane crashed around 5:10 pm Saturday in the middle of the Suwannee River.

Authorities say it's a single engine plane.

No word as of yet of how many people were on board.

Crews are on the scene still searching for victims. We'll be sure to update you with more information as it becomes available.

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