A 60-year-old pilot and his two daughters died when a small plane crashed Sunday night into a retention pond in a Sandalwood neighborhood, about one mile from Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport.
The Cessna 310 went down about 6:20 p.m. in a retention pond in the back yard of a home on Nettington Court, in the Sutton Lakes neighborhood off Atlantic Boulevard.
Gerald Vance, who lives in a house near where the crash happened, ran out and tried to help the victims immediately afterward.
"I told my fiance to call 911," he said. "I stripped off my clothes and just jumped into the lake, was pretty much just calling for any type of response I could get from anyone. It was very murky, very eerie."
Vance, who is a former lifeguard, said he didn't wait to try to pull the victims out with hopes of saving their lives.
"I jumped in the water and the pilot was kind of hanging out of the window a little bit," he said. "I was trying to pull on him. He was still in his seat belt, kind of attached. No movement, no life. And then I started slowly backing out of the water, and of course that's when I bumped into the female passenger who had been ejected, still attached in her seat. So I slowly started pulling her out of the water, and by that time some of my neighbors had came over and we got her onto the bank. It's very unfortunate."
IMAGES: Wreckage in retention pond
On Monday morning, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office identified the victims as Michael Huber, 60, Tess Huber, 20 and Abigail Huber, 17 -- all residents of Port St. Lucie, Fla. Their flight was heading from Fort Pierce to Craig Airport.
Channel 4 has learned that Michael Huber was a dentist and Tess Huber was a University of North Florida sophomore who excelled on UNF's golf team.
Brian Morgan, of UNF athletics, said Tess (right, in photo above) went home this weekend to see her younger sister play in a golf tournament, and her dad was bringing her back to Jacksonville Sunday night for exams this week.
According to JSO spokeswoman Melissa Bujeda, the pilot radioed the Craig Airport tower to report he could not see the runway. Channel 4 meteorologist Rebecca Barry said visibility was about two miles in the East Arlington area at 6 p.m., about the time of the crash.
Shortly after the last radio traffic, the JSO 911 center began getting calls about a plane going down.
FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said the plane crashed "after making a missed approach" to the airport.
"Very thankful nobody on the ground was hurt or it didn't hit a house," said Robert Gretz, of the National Transportation and Safety Board. "It hit a retaining pond very close to a house, and it didn't do any property damage and it didn't hurt anybody. Just looking around at how close the houses are together, it really is fortunate, as bad as this accident is, it could have been worse."
Vance said he first thought the plane was going to hit his house and feared for his 2-year-old daughter and his fiance.
"I got a family of my own. Thank God the pilot had the sense to move away from our home, because the nose of the plane was actually pointing at my back door," Vance said. " It could've been a very different set of circumstances at this point. So I'm just grateful to be here."
Others in the neighborhood said they heard the crash, and some reported their house shook when the plane impacted the water.
"It makes me a little bit nervous," resident Stephen Meckes said. "I'm shaking right now just thinking about it."
According to the Federal Aviation Administration database, the 1979 aircraft was owned by Hubaire LLC out of Fort Pierce.
The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash. NTSB said its investigation will focus on the pilot, the machine and the environment.
Records show Huber had been licensed to fly a single-engine aircraft since 2001 and received his instrument rating the following year. He received his multi-engine certification in 2006.
Michael Huber's blood toxicology will be taken, and investigators will check the plane's maintenance records and look at weather data.