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Quick-thinking pilot saves life of Irish hotelier

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A St Petersburg police investigator takes pictures of the aircraft's left wing and landing gear after the plane crashed.

A St Petersburg police investigator takes pictures of the aircraft's left wing and landing gear after the plane crashed.

Tampa Bay Times

Al Ryan

Al Ryan

/

A St Petersburg police investigator takes pictures of the aircraft's left wing and landing gear after the plane crashed.

Quick thinking by a pilot who deftly guided a small plane to a crash landing in a US park saved the life of all on board, including a well-known Irish hotelier.

The plane - with three passengers on board - had suffered apparent engine failure.

Aloysius Ryan (52) was among the injured when the single-engine aircraft narrowly missed an apartment building and crashed into a public park in Florida. Mr Ryan, who lives in Howth, is a co-director of two well-known Dublin hotels, the Grand in Malahide and the Marine in Sutton.

The pilot of the plane, Grant Jordan (57), suffered serious injuries in the crash which took place in the town of St Petersburg.

Also on board were Eamonn Marnell (58) from Crawfordsburn near Bangor, Co Down, and an unnamed 17-year-old girl, understood to be from the northern part of the county.

They were all members of the Newtownards-based Ulster Flying Club.

It is believed two of the passengers managed to escape from the wreckage of the Piper Cherokee plane.

It had got into difficulties as it approached an airfield in St Petersburg.

The pilot received special praise for being able to gradually ground the aircraft on a narrow strip of grass in what was a crowded landing space.

However, when the plane landed, it clipped a nearby tree and a wing was damaged as those on the ground looked on in horror.

But Mr Marnell and the girl were able to step out of the plane when one of the doors swung open. A witness said he saw the pilot sitting limp with "his head back" and he was unconscious when paramedics arrived.

Both he and Mr Ryan remain in hospital in St Petersburg and were at first described as being in a serious but stable condition. The other two were treated for minor injuries.

St Petersburg police officer Mike Puetz said: "It was a violent landing. It probably took a lot of skill on the pilot's part to get the plane down in relatively one part."

Irish Independent