VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) — The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released its preliminary findings of a small airplane crash that claimed the lives of three family members from St. Petersburg in early December.
According to the report, the accident unfolded during a return flight from Venice Municipal Airport (VNC) to St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) on Dec 3, 2022.
Officials said the airplane lifted off from the 5,000-foot runway at 7:37 p.m., approximately 4,100 ft beyond the “approach end of the runway.” The small aircraft was traveling about 101 mph.
Near the end of the runway, investigators said the plane then increased its speed to 103 mph and climbed to an altitude of 50 ft.
Over the next four seconds, data showed the airplane climbed to an altitude of 75 ft at 108 mph, before it descended.
Just 16 seconds after liftoff, the airplane splashed down into the Gulf about 1,800 ft beyond the departure end of the runway.
A weather report showed winds blowing at 8 mph and a broken ceiling at 5,000 ft above ground level.
The NTSB report said an airport surveillance camera captured the airplane depart the runway with “little to no angle of climb.” The airplane then flew into a dark sky over dark water with “no discernable horizon.”
Authorities said the pilot, later identified as 42-year-old Christian Kath, had 13.5 hours of flight experience since he earned his private pilot certificate on July 31, 2022. Kath had accrued a total of 74.2 hours of flight experience before the crash, of which, 67.6 hours were in the accident airplane make and model.
Also aboard the aircraft were Kath’s wife Misty, and their 12-year-old daughter Lily. The family previously lived in Australia before living in St. Petersburg. Shorecrest Preparatory School confirmed Lily was a student there.
Recreational divers found Misty’s body around the time the search for the family’s plane began. Rescue divers later found the body of Lily Kath after discovering the aircraft 15 feet underwater.
According to the FAA and maintenance records, the airplane was manufactured in 1976 and had its most recent 100-hour inspection completed on Nov. 2, 2022, at 7,653 total aircraft hours.