EVERGLADES CITY — Four people survived after their small plane crash landed into the water beside the Everglades Airpark runway Sunday afternoon.
The plane carrying two men and two women went down into about six feet of water just before 2 p.m., according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
"They were on approach to the airport when they crashed into the water on the bay side of the runway," said Michelle Batten, a Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.
Everyone on board was able to get out of the plane after the crash. Two men in a nearby jon boat saw the plane go down and assisted the passengers.
"They jumped into the water and helped (the crash victims) into their boat," Batten said.
National Park Service boats were the next to arrive on scene, followed by Ochopee firefighters, Collier County EMS and Collier deputies, Batten said.
All four victims complained of back and neck pain. They were transported to NCH Downtown Naples Hospital for treatment. Their names were not immediately available Sunday. The Federal Aviation Administration said the plane is a Piper (P28).
Because there were no fatalities, the crash seemed to cause little disruption in the small town.
By late afternoon, the response boats had cleared out. The plane remained half-submerged in the water near a buoy.
Occasionally, an Everglades National Park tour boat, passengers aboard, traveled past it.
At an Everglades National Park visitor center down the road from the airport, people were eating ice cream, picking up information about hiking trails, and taking tours.
Jim Sullivan, a Las Vegas resident visiting the Everglades with friends, took his first boat tour soon after the crash. Sullivan, 75, said he had expected the Mangrove trees and wildlife — not the plane.
"It was a big surprise," Sullivan said.
He said the plane’s left wing was detached from the fuselage and floating in the water about 50 feet away.
Steve Cox, 62, a tour boat captain, said he was on the scene soon after the crash. The victims had already gotten out of the plane, he said.
"People were still in the water," Cox said. "They said they needed medical attention."
He used his radio to call nearby park rangers for help.
"They blasted out … and were over there in just a little bit," he said. "(The crash victims) had help right away."
It’s unclear why the plane crashed.
Sunday, the sky over Everglades City was sunny and nearly cloudless. Airport officials said the weather conditions made for virtually unlimited visibility. Wind was slight, with speeds at around 6 miles per hour throughout the day, they said.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the FAA are expected to conduct an investigation into the crash. The downed plane will likely remain in the water until the investigation is complete.
Everglades Airpark has a 2,400-foot runway and is surrounded on three sides by Everglades National Park waters, according to the Collier County government website.
The last time a plane crashed at the Everglades airport was in April 2012, when television fishing show host Jose Wejebe’s experimental plane left the runway and nose-dived into the water. Wejebe was killed in the crash.