GAINESVILLE - A small airplane crashed Saturday in the middle of an on-campus field used for tailgating a few hours before the University of Florida’s football game against University of Arkansas. The pilot and a passenger were taken to Shands Hospital with treatable injuries, and no one on the ground was hurt, police said.
The plane was pulling an advertising banner and is believed to have lost power around 4 p.m. over Flavet Field, three hours before kickoff. At the time, numerous RV and tailgate parties were on the lawn.
The plane skidded through a fence into a parking area and crashed into several vehicles. One witness said he saw a silver pickup truck knocked into the air.
“At this point in time, what we know for sure is the aircraft lost power,” said Maj. Brad Barber, the University Police Department assistant director. “The nature of the injuries of the pilot and passenger, we do not know, but we do not believe they were life-threatening.”
Barber said the National Transportation Safety Board would handle the investigation.
Barber did not release the names of the two occupants and said authorities had not yet determined the origin of the flight.
The crash occurred about a half-mile southwest of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, where 90,000 people were expected to attend the game.
An hour after the crash, the mood at Flavet Field seemed to return to normal. Grills were smoking and children were playing touch football.
Because the plane lost power and was relatively quiet, those on the ground were caught by surprise.
“There was no engine noise; it was dead silent,” said Wayne Hooper, a Gainesville resident who was tailgating. “Thank God there was nobody standing in the middle of the field when it hit.”