Pilot identifed in Apollo Beach chopper crash

APOLLO BEACH, Fla. - Divers have recovered  the pilot who crashed his chopper off Apollo Beach Friday afternoon.

The pilot has been identified as 60 year-old John Lawrence Ward of Tampa.

Two witnesses say they saw the Robinson R22 chopper go into the water about 300 yards offshore from Bright Bay Court near Beer Can Island. No tail number has been identified yet.

Tampa Bay Aviation has confirmed that one of their choppers has not reported back and is still missing, but couldn't say for sure if the downed helicopter was one of theirs.

"I yelled, 'Are there any boats on scene? Are there any boats on scene,'" said Matthew Scull, witness to the crash who jumped on his boat and tried to help.  "There was nothing that could be done."

An off-duty Tampa police officer on shore also saw the crash and called it in. He said the rotors looked like they came off the top of the chopper. He said he saw one person floating but no reports of injuries or rescues have been reported.

"It was either the tail rotor or a piece of the main rotor. It was just long and white. It looked like a piece of vinyl siding," Scull explained.

One witness that ABC Action News talked to said he heard a loud explosion and ran out of his home. A neighbor went out on his boat in an attempt to help.

The extent of the damage is not known, although witnesses say debris did wash up on shore.

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