OCEAN CITY — Recovery efforts began anew early this morning about 500 yards off the beach near 130th Street where a plane crashed into the sea late Sunday afternoon, claiming the lives of two off-duty Ocean City Police officers, but high winds and choppy seas are curtailing the somber mission.
Just prior to nightfall on Sunday, authorities on the scene of the plane crash were confident they had located the debris field on the ocean floor, but strong currents and limited visibility prevented a dive team from entering the water to make a confirmation. At daybreak on Monday, a Coast Guard vessel and about three smaller boats were moored over the site as the effort began to recover the two victims and ultimately raised the crashed plane and tow it the beach. However, choppy seas slowed the recovery effort and the situation remained status quo as of mid-morning. The possibility of afternoon thunderstorms could also play a factor as the day progresses.
Ocean City Police Public Information Officer Mike Levy said at the scene this morning what would normally take a couple of hours under calmer seas and clearer water was likely going to take much of the day. Unfortunately, the grim chore that would have been better taken care of early in the morning before the throngs of beachgoers started streaming out to the water’s edge will now likely stretch into the afternoon hours.
Meanwhile, the beach at the crash scene is roped off for about a block in each direction as police officers, rescue and recovery crews, Beach Patrol officers, Ocean City elected officials and perhaps most importantly members of the victims’ family and friends gathered under makeshift canopies and tents while the effort drags on through midday.
Last night, it was confirmed by numerous 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 around 4 p.m. on Sunday.
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 by this publication until law enforcement issues an official statement on crash victims. That’s when it will be known kin has been notified.
Around 9 p.m. last night, authorities reported they had 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 continued the operation this 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. As more details emerge, The Dispatch will update its website and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thedispatchoc