Panama City Beach pilot seriously injured in crash

MARATHON, Fla. (NBC) - Three people were airlifted to a Miami hospital after a small plane crashed near the Marathon airport in the Florida Keys Thursday.

Four people were on board the Piper Lance plane when it crashed in a wooded area on the backside of the airport, Monroe County Sheriff's Office officials said.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, a passenger said the plane was attempting to take off when it was caught by a gust of wind, which blew the plane into the tree line near the runway.

Three of the four on board, including the pilot, were taken by helicopter to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center as trauma alerts, officials said.

Monroe County Sheriff's Officials say the pilot was identified as 65-year-old Roch A. D Aoust, of Panama City Beach. The injured passengers were 53-year-old Derrick Kelley and 49-year-old Danny Gilileo, both of Auburndale. The fourth passenger, 60-year-old Tony Lewis, of Lakeland, suffered minor injuries.

The plane was reported to catch fire, but the fire was quickly extinguished. The airport was closed to air traffic Thursday afternoon.

The Department of Environmental Protection was notified due to a 90-gallon fuel spill. The FAA was also responding to the scene.

No other details were immediately known. The cause of the crash remains under investigation.