Pilot hospitalized after float plane crash in Crescent City

James Goolsby, 79, crashed in lake, was able to swim to shore

By Jenese Harris - Reporter/anchor, Frank Powers - Assignment manager

CRESCENT CITY, Fla. - A pilot in his 70s was hospitalized after a float plane crashed Tuesday evening in Crescent City, according to the Putnam County Sheriff's Office.

The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the crash. Troopers said the sea plane was attempting a water landing on a lake on private property. The plane tipped and was submerged.

"We just heard a loud boom and looked up and there was a plane upside down in the water," a witness said.

The pilot of the SeaRey plane, 79-year-old James Goolsby, was the only person on board, according to the Highway Patrol.

"It was awhile before we actually saw him out in the water because he was in the water upside down and he had to get out of his harness," the witness said.

The witness said she called 911 and a neighbor helped Goolsby as he swam back to land. They said the pilot has decades of flying experience, and they were surprised when they saw the plane nose dive.

Aviation records show Goolsby has flown planes for over 30 years. Those planes include the 747.

It's unclear exactly what caused the crash, but News4Jax aviation expert Ed Booth said the plane is challenging to fly.

"Seaplanes are more dangerous than land airplanes. Landing on water is a skill that requires a lot of discipline, excellent depth perception and excellent operating conditions," Booth said.

Booth said the crash could have been much worse. In November 2017, Roy Hallady, a professional baseball player, was killed in crash involving a similar plane.

Originally, the Sheriff's Office described the man's injuries as serious, but the Highway Patrol said the man suffered minor injuries.

The small plane crash was the third News4Jax has reported since Sunday, when two small planes crashed miles apart in St. Johns County. Two men were injured when a plane went down in Hastings, and no one was hurt when a small plane crashed in Elkton.

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