OCEAN CITY — Prior to nightfall yesterday, authorities on the scene of a plane crash in north Ocean City were fairly confident they located a debris field, but strong currents and limited visibility prevented a dive team from entering the water to make a confirmation.< ?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office">
Last night, it was confirmed by 10 knowledgeable sources that two off-duty members of the Ocean City Police Department have been identified as the pilot and passenger in the two-seat Nanchang CJ-6A that took off from the Ocean City Municipal Airport yesterday and crashed into the ocean off 130th Street.
Although there has been no official word from the OCPD, it’s widely known in the law enforcement community that two men in blue have perished in the accident witnesses by thousands of beach-goers on a hot, humid summer afternoon. No names will be released until the OCPD issues an official statement on crash victims.
Recovery of the plane is expected to begin first thing this morning, but the instable weather forecasted for today will make that effort difficult. A strong chance of thunderstorms exists throughout the day today.
Around 9 p.m., authorities reported they may have found the remains of the plane that suddenly spiraled out of control into the Atlantic Ocean about 500 yards offshore.
Through the use of radar and sonar, agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard, Maryland State Police, the Ocean City Fire Department and others, have reported their belief they have located the aircraft, which has been identified as a Nanchang CJ-6A, which was designed and built in China.
The plane took off from the Ocean City Municipal Airport in West Ocean City earlier Sunday and crashed from a high altitude. Witnesses reported seeing the plane performing stunts before crashing. Witnesses said the pilot was flying at a high altitude before moving into some sort of acrobatic move. At some point, the plane continued to plummet at an incredible speed and crashed into the ocean, followed by a loud boom, according to eyewitnesses.
Divers from the Ocean City Fire Department were dispatched to the site aboard a Coast Guard vessel.
Shortly before nightfall, it was reported to media on the scene that authorities believe the aircraft has been located through radar and sonar off 131st Street, but they can’t confirm it because it was too dangerous to send divers down at that time due to rough ocean conditions and the limited visibility due to darkness. The plane is believed to have crashed in water about 50 feet in depth.
Officials are expected to continue the operation in the morning, and the plane will likely be towed ashore once it’s located and confirmed if its condition allows it to be recovered and towed. A special unit familiar with these types of operations is reportedly in Ocean City assisting with the effort.
The Sea Rocket first contacted Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads watchstanders at approximately 4 p.m. reporting the plane crashed approximately 500 yards offshore of 130th Street in Ocean City.
Sector Hampton Roads watchstanders issued an urgent marine information broadcast and dispatched crews aboard a 25-foot Response Boat – Small and a 47-foot Motor Life Boat from Coast Guard Station Ocean City to assist. A Maryland State Police helicopter also assisted in the search.
The plane reportedly sank shortly after crashing into the water.
Sea Rocket Captain and owner Graham Bostic reported to The Dispatch he was on his boat with customers when the plane crash took place off the coast of Ocean City.
Bostic said the crash occurred about a half mile from where the Sea Rocket, the patriotic-looking pleasure craft known for its long water trail, was at the time near 130th Street. Contrary to initial reports, he said there were no rescues to be made at that time and that he traveled to the scene to "mark the spot" so authorities knew where the plane entered the water.
Ocean Aerials, the banner plane company that operates out of Berlin’s Bunting Airport, confirmed to The Dispatch via telephone around 5 p.m. that the plane crash off 130th Street did not involve a banner plane, as the airport was closed due to the weather.
As news breaks, The Dispatch will update its website and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thedispatchoc
Photo by Kate Hammen