Pilot who crashed plane into bay contemplated bridge landing, but didn't want to endanger motorists

Anthony Marsh says training saved his life

CLEARWATER, Fla. - A Pennsylvania pilot is recovering from a crash landing early Friday morning into Tampa Bay.

Anthony Marsh's single engine aircraft lost power en route to Clearwater-St. Petersburg airport. The pilot was forced to make a quick decision on where to bring the plane down.

He had three options: the Courtney Campbell Causeway, Bayside Bridge, or take it down in the water.

Marsh chose the water.

"I knew that if I landed on the bridge, I could possibly kill other people," he said. "I might die anyways, but…"

It was a dilemma that he wishes he had an entire day to figure out, but he only had seconds.

He says the Courtney Campbell had too many commuters, and there were too many semi-trucks racing down Bayside.

"I would land on top of a car or truck and everyone would have been mangled," he said. "I'm sure I would have been dead."

He told air traffic control at the Clearwater-St. Petersburg Airport that he's going down in the bay, and they immediately sent rescue crews.

It was so dark, witnesses could barely make out what they saw.

"My uncle said, 'what's that?' My aunt said, 'I don't know, it looked like a plane!'" said Christopher Wheeler, who was staying at a home nearby.

Marsh said he blacked out when the plane hit the water.

"The tail hit, then it plowed into the nose and flipped right over," he said.

When he came to, he was drowning as the plane submerged into darkness. With his final breath, he somehow managed to kick out a window and escape.

"I was dying in the bay and then I was alive again, I couldn't believe it," Marsh said.

The beat up pilot spent most of the day watching dive teams assess the wreckage and prepare the plane to be brought to shore.

Instead of spending time with his girlfriend in Clearwater this weekend, Marsh will be recovering from a cut hand, forehead, and a black eye.

"I feel like Evander Holyfield got to me," he said. "But it doesn't hurt compared to the victory of being alive."

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