Treasure Island police looking for ultralight pilot who took off near boaters in John’s Pass

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Detectives with the Treasure Island Police Department are looking for the pilot of an ultralight that was flying near John’s Pass over the weekend.

Police say the operator came dangerously close to boaters while taking off in an area restricted to pilots.

Video of the pilot on the busy waterway was captured Saturday. The pilot sped pass three boats, and then took off.

Investigators say what the pilot did was illegal and dangerous.

“It does get a little tricky to have everybody navigate around the Intracoastal, let alone when you start landing randomly all over the place,” Terry Ryan, owner of Gators Parasails, said.

Ryan rents wave runners and has groups that parasail. He said he’s constantly warning guest to be weary of what’s around them.

“Especially on the weekend when it’s real busy,” Ryan said. “There’s not only jetskis, kayaks and boats to navigate around. I hear the planes always have the right of way, but unfortunately, you don’t always see or hear a micro light until it’s behind you or in front of you or landing.”

Ryan doesn’t know the pilot, but says ultralights are common in the area.

A city ordinance prohibits any type of aircraft from taking off from either park land, water or beach unless it’s an emergency, or with written permission from the city manager.

The waterway between Isle of Capri and Eleanor Island, where the pilot took off, is heavily populated with boaters and swimmers.

Police say the pilot’s reckless behavior placed many unsuspecting visitors at risk. Ryan agreed.

“What do we tell them, move to the right, move to the left? I don’t know what the laws are. We’ve never been told, just like law enforcement. It’s all kind of a gray area,” Ryan said.

The area is also zoned as “slow speed, minimum wake” to maintain a safe recreational area.


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