9-year-old girl struck by plane on Florida beach dies

Sgt. 1st Class Ommy Irizarry is shown with his daughter, Oceana. Family Photo via All Children's Hospital

Last Updated Jul 29, 2014 8:45 PM EDT

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A 9-year-old girl who was struck by a plane that crash-landed on a beach while she vacationed with her family has died from her injuries, law enforcement officials in Florida said Tuesday.

Oceana Irizarry's father, Ommy Irizarry, also was killed. The two, of Fort Stewart, Georgia, were walking along Caspersen Beach in Venice on Sunday afternoon when the 1972 Piper Cherokee plane made an emergency landing after reporting problems.

In a statement, the family said, "Our precious Oceana has joined her daddy in heaven."

The family thanked the emergency responders and beachgoers who helped them, and expressed gratitude for prayers and support from around the world.

"There are no words to describe the suffering we are experiencing," the statement said. "Their loss is devastating to our family and to everyone who knew them."

The pilot, Karl Kokomoor, said he didn't see the pair as the plane came down.

"The plane hit the water to rest with the nose down on the water's edge," he said in a statement read to the media by his family's pastor. "It was only after I exited the plane did I realize there were people on the beach. I never saw them. I am deeply, deeply sorry."

Kokomoor, 57, and his passenger, David Theen, 60, both of nearby Englewood, were not injured.

Ommy Irizarry, an Army sergeant celebrating his ninth anniversary with wife Rebecca, died at the scene Sunday. His daughter was airlifted to All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg. The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office said Tuesday morning that it was notified by the medical examiner's office of the girl's death.

Ommy Irizarry "was a beloved husband, father, son, brother, friend and soldier," the family wrote in the statement. "He lit up the room whenever he entered and was devoted to his family."

Oceana was about to enter fourth grade, the family said.

"Oceana was a beautiful, intelligent and kind-hearted little girl," the statement said. "She was a natural artist who loved to learn."

Many of Ommy Irizarry's photos on Facebook were of him, his wife Rebecca and their three children. The family could be seen smiling on various beaches and playing in the water through the years.

It was unclear how the plane or the debris hit the father and his daughter. Officials say the pilot radioed the airport that he was having trouble with the plane and was planning to land on the beach.

caspersen-beach-crash-handout-1.jpg
A 1972 Piper Cherokee crash-landed on a beach in Venice, Fla., killing a man who was walking on the sand and injuring his daughter. The girl later died from her injuries.
Sarasota County Sheriff's Office

"He's trying to make the airport," a woman calling 911 from the airport said. "He says he's not going to make the airport. But he's going to be on the beach."

In other 911 calls, a family friend cried as she described the scene while screams and wailing could be heard in the background. Another man told a dispatcher about the little girl's condition.

"She's breathing a little right now," a man said. "Rapid pulse and difficult breathing. She's unconscious."

The National Transportation Safety Board was investigating.

CBS affiliate WTSP reports that Ommy Irizarry was stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia.

"This is a heart-wrenching situation, especially losing loved ones while on vacation to celebrate a family milestone," 3rd Infantry Division and Stewart-Hunter commander Maj. Gen. Mike Murray said in a written statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the Irizarry family."

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