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Florida air show marks aerobatic pilot's death

Ian Groom's plane crashed Friday during practice flight

From Rich Phillips

Department of Homeland Security
Air Transportation
Disasters and Accidents

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (CNN) -- Huge crowds turned out Saturday for the Fort Lauderdale Air and Sea Show, a day after the man who would have been one of the show's best-known stars died while practicing a stunt.

Ian Groom, a South Africa-born pilot who donated his time to train Department of Homeland Security pilots, crashed into the ocean Friday while performing a spin with his aircraft.

The death of one of the world's most respected aerobatic pilots shocked fellow pilots and fans around the world.

Saturday's air show was dedicated to Groom. The Canadian Air Force's Snowbirds aerobatic flying team performed a missing man formation in his memory.

Groom had been scheduled to perform twice Saturday. One of the performances would have been in a plane marked with Department of Homeland Security logos.

Groom, 56, was flying a high-performance, single-seat, Russian-made aerobatic plane when he crashed about 2:15 p.m. Friday.

Annette Calicoat, a family friend of Groom's and marketing manager for his company, Ian Groom Air Shows, told CNN he was healthy. She said she doubts Groom made a mistake that led to the crash.

"I find it difficult to believe it was pilot error," she said.

The Broward County Coroner's Office said he died from drowning and blunt trauma. Toxicology screenings, which are standard, will be available in a couple of months, the coroner's office said.

His forte was known as the snap roll. Heading straight for the ground, he would fly his plane in a circular motion, spinning 57 times in 20 seconds, a world record he set in 2002.

The U.S. government sought Groom's assistance in training pilots after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. He agreed to help for free.

Groom had said he performed before 4.5 million people every year at air shows, but his greatest satisfaction came from teaching the men and women who protect the homeland.

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