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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, November 30, 2023


The world of flying boats became just a little bit smaller but a lot less colorful Thursday with the death of ex-St. Thomian Paddy O'Leary, 40, in a plane crash in south Florida.
O'Leary flew for V.I. Seaplane Shuttle in St. Thomas in the mid-'80s. Very tall, very Irish and very, very good looking, he wasn't your average seaplane pilot.
For one thing, he had another career -– modeling. For this latter career he took a lot of vocal abuse from his colleagues, but he handled it well with his disarming sense of humor. He was one of the company's most popular pilots.
He moved to Florida in the late '80s flew for Chalks Airline out of Miami. Chalks went out of business after years of service between Miami and the Bahamas.
O'Leary had almost realized his dream of starting his own airline with Grumman Gooses to run between Miami and Bimini Island in the Bahamas. He called his airline Tropic Bird, and had a toucan as its mascot, probably in memory of Sam, the Seaplane Shuttle's feathered mascot.
Thursday was O'Leary's last check flight with the FAA before receiving his final go-ahead for Tropic Bird Airlines.
FAA inspector Mary Hirsch, 57, was in the passenger seat of the twin-engine Grumman Goose. According to the Sun-Sentinel e-news of south Florida, O'Leary took off from Executive Airport in Lauderdale Lakes and minutes later lost power. He maneuvered the aircraft to a nearby canal in order to avoid some houses. Evidently this cost him his life. The plane clipped some trees and flipped over in the canal.
Rescuers saved Hirsch, but were unable to get to O'Leary before the aircraft burst into flames. Hirsch was treated at Broward County Hospital for minor injuries and released.
A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at Calvary Chapel, 2401 Cypress Creek Road, Fort Lauderdale.

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