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Date of Issue: April 19, 2007

2 injured in small plane crash

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Officials investigate the crash of a private, single-engine plane on April 13. Islander Photo: Courtesy Craig Herbert of NewsManatee.com

A Cortez man and a Sarasota man suffered injuries April 13 when the single-engine plane they were in crashed near the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

The crash of the Lakeland 250 plane occurred at about 11 a.m. on 15th Street East near Tallevast Road in Sarasota, according to a news release from the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Witnesses told authorities that they saw the plane take off from the airport's Runway 4, heard the engine sputter and saw the craft rip through power lines before nose-diving into a road-side ditch.

Deputies with the sheriff's office responded, as did other local emergency officials and federal and state investigators.

Two men in the plane were taken to area hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.

Pilot Mark Stitcht, 46, of Sarasota, was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital. Stitcht had made a "mayday" call after take-off.

Passenger Norvall Dawson, 76, of Cortez, was taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital after being pulled from the smoking plane by Demetric Higdon, who works near the airport and saw the plane go down.

An airport worker who helped the injured men, Alvaro Rodriguez, was treated for smoke inhalation, according to the sheriff's office.

At the scene, as sheriff's deputies tried to keep vehicles off of 15th Street East from Whitfield to Tallevast, emergency workers cleaned up spilled fuel and investigators examined the plane, according to a spokeswoman with the Federal Aviation Authority, which is investigating the crash.