A perfect day at the beach turned into devastating tragedy for a family from Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, who was vacationing on the Florida Gulf Coast. Around 2:45 in the afternoon Sunday, a small Piper plane came down roaring and hit Ommy Irizarry and his 9-year-old daughter while they were looking for snails.
He died shortly afterward, while the girl remains in critical condition. She had been airlifted to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg along with her grandmother, Isabel Medina, who witnessed her son’s death from underneath her umbrella. She had to receive medical care after the unspeakable shock.
Irizarry’s wife, Rebecca, was also at the beach, as well as Irizarry’s son from a previous marriage and a younger daughter.
On Sunday, the Irizarrys were celebrating their ninth wedding anniversary.
"Thank you for being with me through thick and thin. I love you with all my heart, mi Roma," he wrote in a Facebook post a few hours before the accident. "I am very happy and can't wait to see what the next 100 have in store for us," he wrote, and tagged his wife, Rebecca, in the post.
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According to Puerto Rican newspaper El Nuevo Dia Irizarry, 36, was an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Stewart base in Georgia. He had been in service for 12 years and was deployed twice to Iraq.
Sheriff's officials said the pilot of the 1972 Piper Cherokee lost a wheel, damaged a wing and smashed its propeller shortly after making a distress call to Venice Municipal Airport. The pilot was Karl Kokomoor, 57, and the passenger was David Theen, 60, both of nearby Englewood. They we not injured.
"My wife was sitting there on the beach under an umbrella that Ommy had put to protect her and her two grandchildren from the sun when she saw the plane fall on him,” Medina’s husband, Miguel Cancel, told El Nuevo Dia.
“Ommy was collecting snails with Oceana and the plane caught them off guard from behind,” he said.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are investigating.
Family friend Kim Howard described Irizarry as "a great, hands-on father" to three children. He was an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Stewart in Georgia, according to officials, and Howard said the family was scheduled to be transferred to a base in Alaska.
The couple's Facebook page was filled with photos of the family enjoying beaches in Georgia and in Ommy's native Puerto Rico. On Saturday, he posted a photo from a beach near Sarasota, with the words "I love Mom + Dad," scrawled in the sand, with the symbol for a heart in place of the word love.
Rebecca's page showed a photo of her and her husband in the water, smiling for the camera. About 4 p.m. Sunday, she wrote: "We need prayers, now! Please stop and pray for Ommy and Oceana."
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