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Courts / Law

Girl Hit By Plane on Beach Dies

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Family photo / All Children's Hospital

A 9-year-old girl who was struck by a plane that crash-landed on a Gulf Coast beach near Sarasota while she vacationed with her family has died from her injuries, law enforcement officials said Tuesday.

Oceana Irizzary's father also was killed Sunday. The two, from Georgia, were walking along a beach in Venice on Sunday afternoon when the 1972 Piper Cherokee plane made an emergency landing after reporting problems.

Ommy Irizarry, a U.S. Army sergeant celebrating his ninth anniversary with wife Rebecca, died at the scene Sunday. His daughter was airlifted to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday morning that they were notified by the medical examiner's office of the girl's death.

It was unclear how the plane or the debris hit the father and his daughter. Officials say the pilot radioed the airport that he was having trouble with the plane and was planning to land on the beach.

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Credit AP Photo/Sarasota County Sheriff's Office
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AP Photo/Sarasota County Sheriff's Office
Emergency personnel attend to a small plane crash on Caspersen Beach in Venice Sunday that killed a man and seriously injured his daughter as the two walked on the sand.

"He's trying to make the airport," a woman making an emergency call from the airport said. "He says he's not going to make the airport. But he's going to be on the beach."

The Tampa Bay Times reports that aviation experts say it's possible the pilot, Karl Kokomoor, never saw Irizarry and his daughter, who probably also never heard the plane approaching.

...if the plane's engine failed, it would have been gliding in almost silently, said Stuart Campbell, assistant professor of aeronautical science at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. That means the 36-year-old father, on vacation with his family, wouldn't have heard the small Piper Cherokee plane behind them until seconds before they were struck. "It's like a car passing you," Campbell said. "You don't hear the car until it's right up on you, maybe due to wind or maybe due to noise."

In other emergency calls, a family friend cried as she described the scene while 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," a man said. "Rapid pulse and difficult breathing. She's unconscious."

Kokomoor, 57, and passenger David Theen, 60, were not injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating.

The family issued the following statement on Tuesday morning:
Our precious Oceana has joined her daddy in heaven. She was nine years old. Oceana was a beautiful, intelligent and kind-hearted little girl. She was a natural artist who loved to learn. She was looking forward to the 4th grade.

Ommy, a Sergeant First Class in the Army, 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.

Although they are gone, Ommy and Oceana live on through organ donation. Forever, they will be in our hearts. To all of those who helped us on the beach and medical personnel, thank you for your efforts to save them. We will always be grateful to All Children's Hospital for your skilled and loving care of Oceana and our family.

In sorrow, the Irizarry and Power families