(Oct. 30) BALM, Fla. — Donn Goodson, one of central Florida’s largest and most respected strawberry and pepper growers, died Oct. 29 from injuries he suffered in a helicopter crash eight days earlier.

Goodson, 53, owner of Goodson Farms Inc., Balm, Fla., and passenger Don Taylor, 48, of South Haven, Miss., were attempting to land in Goodson’s 1963 Bell 47 helicopter after a sightseeing trip when the aircraft rotor clipped a garage roof and crashed. Another Goodson friend, William “Billy” Harter, 46, of Lakeland, Fla., was standing in the area and was killed.

Taylor remained in serious condition Oct. 30.

The National Transportation Safety Board has launched an investigation into the cause of the crash.

“(Goodson’s death) is a tremendous loss,” said Chip Hinton, executive director of the Plant City-based Florida Strawberry Growers Association. “He had a real love for his community, a love for youth and was a leader in the community. When there was a need, he was always there behind the scenes.”

Goodson was a supporter of Future Farmers of America activities but is best known in the industry for beginning a trend five years ago when he became the first grower in the area to harvest, pack, cool and sell his strawberries, as opposed to going through a broker. Since then at least four other grower-shippers in the area have followed suit in an effort to increase profits.

Goodson is survived by his wife, Janet; two sons, Rick and Mike; a daughter-in-law, Jessica; and three grandchildren, Brian, Brittany and Cassie.

Funeral was scheduled for Nov. 1 in Ruskin.