Pilot error may have caused plane crash in Clearwater


Published: Monday, January 14, 2008 at 8:41 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 14, 2008 at 8:41 a.m.

CLEARWATER, Fla. ó A pilotís confusion over which runway to land on

may have played a role in a small plane crash that killed three people,

authorities said.

Federal investigators said Sunday that it likely will take six to eight

months of investigation to figure out why the Cessna Skyhawk 172 crashed

into Old Tampa Bay a day earlier, 100 yards short of a runway at the St.

Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport.

But tower controllers, in initial interviews, said that pilot Joseph

Bellamy was cleared to land on one runway but appeared to be lined up with

another runway on his approach, said Tim Monville, a senior air safety

investigator with the National Transportation and Safety Board based in

Miami.

Monville said he also interviewed a witness who described a series of

chaotic movements by the plane just before the crash, perhaps trying to

line up with the correct runway.

The witness told Monville that the plane went sharply to the right, then

to the left. It went right again, pointed its nose up, stalled, rolled left

again and plummeted into the shallow waters.

Bellamy, 31, of Pinellas Park, was killed along with his parents, Gordon

Bellamy, 55, and Susan Bellamy, 53, who lived in Palatka.

Investigators were working Monday to remove the plane from the bay. Divers

removed the bodies Saturday.

The plane belonged to the Pinellas Pilots Association, a group created to

help defray the costs of owning or renting a plane.

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