As soon as Bobby Dixon heard about a small plane crashing into the Bayside Waters mobile home park in Clearwater on Thursday night, he knew he needed to get there.
His wife, Mary Ellen Pender, had gone to the 55+ community that day after golfing with nine other friends. She hadn’t come home, and Dixon knew she always stayed late to help her friend Martha Parry clean up. So Dixon and a friend got in a car.
When Dixon got to the mobile home park, a police officer stopped him from getting any closer to the crash. Dixon waited.
Finally, officers came by with pictures of jewelry worn by one of the victims.
Dixon recognized it. He knew then that his 54-year-old wife was gone.
“I’ve been numb for two days,” he said Saturday.
Dixon insisted on seeing where Pender died. Police led him to the demolished mobile home. He knew from the devastation that his wife had not suffered.
Clearwater officials confirmed Saturday that both Pender and Parry, 86, were killed in the crash, as was the pilot, Jemin Patel, 54, of Melbourne Beach.
Pender and Dixon, 64, met years ago through a mutual friend. While they were together for 26 years, they only married eight years ago, he said.
Pender was a retired emergency room nurse from Queens who loved to travel, including to Ireland to visit cousins.
Dixon didn’t hesitate when describing his wife’s nature. “She had a big, loud laugh,” he said. “And she had a big, loud mouth.”
The couple were snowbirds enjoying their Treasure Island home in the winter and Connecticut in the summer. Pender loved being on the water, Dixon said.
“Mary Ellen was full of life,” he said. “The odds of that happening to her were one in a trillion.”