What started as a night of lobster hunting early Monday morning quickly became surreal for Marathon resident Kyle Franz when a Jupiter man's plane crashed a mile offshore from 63rd Street bayside.
Franz was out at midnight in his 13-foot boat ready to bully-net when 53-year-old Edward Elgin's 1973 single-engine Piper plane crashed near him. Elgin died on impact and Franz was the only person nearby.
"It was definitely crazy for sure. I immediately called 9/11 and started guessing myself afterward, 'Did that really happen?' " Franz said. "He was dead on arrival. I was a little nervous to head out where the plane crashed. It was gnarly — thank God it was only one person."
Franz said he saw Elgin's plane reach about 1,000 feet up before it started to lose altitude. He said the lights and engine were working when the plane hit the water. He said he felt the aftershock rock his boat. There was no response when he called out to the plane.
"It didn't take a nose dive. He came up over my head and there was a big splash. There was no fire or smoke. It went onto the water with its belly."
According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer Bobby Dube, the plane was still in the water late Monday. Elgin's body is at the Monroe County Medical Examiner's Office.
A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board said an investigator en route to Marathon touched down in Atlanta Monday afternoon and expected to be in the Florida Keys by the end of the day.
Elgin retired from Riviera Beach Fire Rescue as a division chief about a year ago after 33 years.
"He was a lot of fun, a very lively and professional man," said Robert Aylsworth, deputy fire chief with the Riviera Beach department. "Everybody here is in shock. He was very vibrant and the go."
Aylsworth said Elgin was an enthusiastic flyer and diver.
Don DeGraw, chief of airports for Monroe County, said Elgin arrived at Florida Keys Marathon International Airport around 2 p.m. Sunday. He was in Marathon diving for lobster.
The case is being investigated by the NTSB.