Pilot survives crash into Gulf of Mexico off of Lido Key, waits with plane overnight

LIDO KEY - Frank Schurgers is, by many accounts, a lucky man.  The plane he was piloting over the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday had engine trouble and crashed into the water.

"I swam away from the plane crash," said Schurgers, who was smiling and joking around following the crash.

It happened around 2:00 p.m. off Lido Key.

Nearby lifeguards saw the plane going down and immediately jumped into the water to save Schurgers.

"You didn't have time to panic," said Schurgers.

Schurgers was trying to make it back to Venice Memorial Airport.  He knew he couldn't make it and tried for a beach landing, but couldn't make it that far either.  He crashed about 400 yards offshore. 

"All of a sudden, he is hitting the water and doing a little forward somersault," said Lt. Joe Securo with the Sarasota County Beach Patrol.  Securo helped rescue Schurgers.

The plane flipped upside-down, but Schurgers was able to make it out.  At one point, he was standing on his plane.

Crews were eventually able to tow the plane to dry land.

"It's a little odd but it's the second (plane crash) we have seen," Securo added.

The plane will stay on the beach until tomorrow.  Schurgers was trying to hire guards to protect the scene, but was unable to secure one.  He said if he had to, he would camp out with his plane overnight, and that's exactly what he ended up doing.

Schurgers said he working on getting the plane towed and hopes that will happen sometime today.

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