Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"Sea plane makes crash landing off Bowman's Beach"

A small sea plane made an emergency landing in the waters off Bowman Beach on Wednesday afternoon, with the pilot and his passenger escaping serious injury.

According to eyewitnesses to the incident, the aircraft appeared to be in distress as it approached the Sanibel shoreline, which was filled with hundreds of beachgoers enjoying a warm summer day in Southwest Florida.

"We were in the water, and we saw the plane coming up the beach," said Gloria McCauley, who was visiting from Columbus, Ohio. "It was flying very low and it was flying very close to the shore. We knew something wasn't right because we could see the pilot waving his hands, like he was signaling to people to move away."

Around 2:30 p.m., the pilot — identified as John Parks — landed the plane in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 100 yards off the coast and one-half mile north of the public beach access of Bowman's Beach.

"He did a pretty good job landing it," added McCauley. "The belly of the plane hit first, and then the right wing hit the water. It made a huge splash."

The passenger of the plane was identified as Desi Dreffin, who is the registered owner of the aircraft.

Robert Szanto of Naples, another eyewitness to the crash, called 9-1-1 when he saw the plane heading towad the shoreline.

"I had never seen anything like that before," he said. "When it landed, it looked like it took a really big hit."

Within minutes, the Sanibel Fire & Rescue District, Sanibel Police Department, Lee County Fire Department, Lee County EMS and the United States Coast Guard arrived on the scene to assist in the rescue effort. No injuries were reported.

"I was really impressed with the emergency response," added Szanto. "There were planes and helicopters here about five minutes after the crash."

Chris Danzi also watched the incident from the beach. He walked out in the waist-high water and helped Parks pull the sea plane into the shallows.

"I talked to (Parks) and he said that he had a problem with the tail, so he had to put it down," said Danzi, a resident of Long Island, N.Y. "When we saw the crash, we thought there were going to be some major injuries, but there he was, about 20 yards out, pulling his plane it. He even swam back out to get some of the pieces that broke off."

The aircraft, a Sea Wind 3000, is based out of Osprey, Fla. The two-seat plane has not been certified by the Federal Aviation Administration and given an airworthiness certificate at the time of the incident.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fireworks show saved by generous islanders

It didn't quite reach the 11th hour, but the chances for a traditional fireworks display in the skies above Sanibel were hanging by a thread. So when news that the annual Independence Day showcase was in serious jeopardy, Sharon Michie sprung into action.

The proprietor of Cottages To Castles, Michie began making phone calls shortly after the last City Council meeting — on June 1 —after councilman Jim Jennings alerted the public that the city's fireworks display was still searching for private funding. After being cut from the 2009 budget, a local business stepped forward last year and the display went on as usual.

But only a couple of weeks ago, no similar donations had been collected to fund this year's display.

Within days of Michie's call to action, more than $10,000 — enough to secure a contract with Zambelli Fireworks — had been collected from various sources: friends of Michie's, fellow Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce members as well as people around town who had heard of the city's dilemma.

"You can't have a Fourth of July without fireworks," she said.

On Friday, Sharon and Judy Michie presented a check to the City of Sanibel — represented by Jennings and Finance Director Sylvia Edwards — in the amount of $15,000 to cover the costs of this year's Independence Day fireworks' display. The amount includes $12,500 to Zambelli for a 12-minute fireworks presentation and $2,500 for the city's Department of Public Works.
However, as of Tuesday afternoon, Michie had collected a total of $17,142.
"And counting!" she added, noting that the extra money collected could expand the showcase to a full 20-minute presentation. Any funds left over will be put towards next year's fireworks display.

"This just reaffirms the fact that we all live in a great community," Michie said. "This has really been a wonderful surprise. Hopefully, this will inspire more people to get involved with things. You cannot fail if you at least try."
Sanibel's annual Independence Day fireworks display will begin at dusk, Sunday, July 4. The fireworks are launched from the north end terminus of Bailey Road. Traditionally, the best viewing of the fireworks display is from the bayside of Sanibel and from any of the Sanibel Causeway Islands.

In addition to the fireworks display, the city has issued the following special event permits for the holiday weekend:

Saturday, July 3rd
9:30 a.m. — Independence Day Parade (Parade route begins at Island Inn Road to Tarpon Bay Road to Periwinkle Way to Casa Ybel Road). Contact Trish Phillips at 246-2981 for additional information.
10:30 a.m. — Bailey's Shopping Center (2477 Periwinkle Way) Fourh of July Backyard BBQ,
10:30 a.m. — Jerry's Shopping Center ( 1700 Periwinkle Way) Independence Day Festival
Noon — Sanibel-Captiva Optimist Club's 31st Annual Fourth of July Road Rally starts and ends at Timbers Restaurant (703 Tarpon Bay Road) Contact Richard McCurry at 292-4631 for additional information.

Sunday, July 4th

4 p.m. — The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club (949 Sand Castle Road) Independence Day Celebration
Dusk — Fireworks

In addition, the following retailers have obtained a Retail Holiday Sidewalk Sales permit and may be holding special sidewalk sales over the holiday weekend: