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Pilot In UF Crash Survives Second Brush With Death

6:51 PM, Oct 7, 2013   |    comments
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GAINESVILLE, FL -- Pilot Graham Hill and passenger Ian Conrad, both of Jacksonville, are said to be okay after a single-engine banner plane crash at Flavet Field at the University of Florida, according to Alachua County Deputy Sheriff's Chief Pilot for the Aviation Unit, Richard Bray.

Bray says Hill was trying to land the plane after it lost power and crashed into a parked vacant pick-up truck. He says Hill did an outstanding job landing the plane.

First Coast News learned that Hill is the same pilot who was shot in the head by celebratory gunfire while flying over Downtown Jacksonville last New Year's Eve.

"We were just north of the football stadium, about 1200 feet when there was a loud pop," said Hill in a YouTube video as he describes getting shot while flying over Downtown for a better view of the fireworks.

According to the FAA, Hill has had his commercial pilot license since 2009. The plane is a 1965 Cessna 172F model registered to Beach Banners Inc. in Jacksonville, according to FlightAware. First Coast News has reached out the owner of Beach Banners Inc. for comment, but has not received a response as of this posting.

UF Police Major Brad Barber said there were no additional injuries from the plane crash, but many tailgaters getting ready for the Gators game were close by when the crash happened.

"It's a sound I definitely won't forget. Very, very loud. scary, horrifying," said Joe Giardina as he recalled the moment the plane crashed.

Giardina says he drives up from Orlando with his family to tailgate for every Gators game. He says he sets up in the same spot on Flavet Field at UF, but Saturday that spot turned out to be just a couple hundred feet from where the plane crashed.

"I don't know how he [pilot] could have done it, but he walked away, I think walked out of the airplane," said Giardina.

Hill and Conrad were both transported to the hospital with non life-threatening injuries. UF Police say the plane was set to fly over Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with a banner advertisement. The stadium is less than a mile from Flavet Field.

"It's just real fortunate that number one, that these cars out here weren't there at the time because that's what he primarily used as his landing strip," said Giardina.

Giardina says the incident is not going to stop him from tailgating at Flavet Field for the next game, but says it was a close call.

"I think someone was looking out for us. I feel very lucky, very fortunate, not just for ourselves, but for everybody out here. It could have been real real bad," added Giardina.

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