No survivors in small plane crash near Marineland, rescuers say
UPDATE: 3:50 p.m. July 18:
A flight instructor and his student were killed in a plane crash near Marineland the night of July 13. Rescuers found the wreckage of the Piper PA44 Seminole, which went off radar at about 11 p.m. on route from Brunswick, Georgia to Ormond Beach, after a search.
The Piper was registered to Sunrise Aviation, a flight academy based in Ormond Beach that has targeted foreign pilot instruction programs designed to meet the pilot training requirements of a number of foreign governments, including that of Saudi Arabia.
The plane's wreckage was found by a WESH 2 News helicopter at about 11:30 p.m. July 14 east of the Matanzas River near the River to Sea Preserve, according to Flagler County Sheriff's Office spokesman Mark Strobridge.
Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly helped coordinate rescuers at the scene.
“It is sad that our efforts did not lead to the rescue of the occupants of the aircraft,” Staly said in a news release. “There was great cooperation with our local, state and federal partners. I am thankful to our friends at Marineland and the assistance provided by the WESH 2 News helicopter team.”
"The aircraft is on dry land, which makes the investigation easier for (National Transportation Safety Board)," Strobridge said. "There are parts of this aircraft that were actually found closer to the shoreline. ... The scene is secure; There’s no danger to the public."
Boaters are not being advised to avoid the area of the Intracoastal near Marineland, because most of the wreckage is believe to be on dry land and not near the shoreline or in the water. However, Strobridge said, anyone who sees any unusual looking metal in the area should alert the NTSB, which is now in control of the crash scene and is handling the crash investigation. (The NTSB can be reached at its district office at 571-223-3930 and at its headquarters at 202-314-6000.)
Earlier on June 14, the marshes around Pellicer Creek had been the scene of a massive search as law enforcement and rescue agencies converged on the area, searching by helicopter, on boats and airboats and on land.
There was limited information to go on.
"An eyewitness said they heard an engine sputtering, and heard an aircraft," Strobridge said.
Rescuers found some debris the morning of June 14 that they believed came from the missing plane.
The search involved the U.S. Coast Guard searching using a Jayhawk helicopter as well as watercraft, and the Flagler County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Flagler County Fire Rescue and the Volusia County Sheriff's Office using a combination of helicopters, small boats and airboats.
The Piper went down not far from the site of another small plane crash in 2014 that killed pilot Raymond Miller.
ORIGINAL STORY: 9:30 a.m. July 14:
Law enforcement and rescue agencies have converged on northeastern Flagler County to search for a small airplane that went off radar in the area about 22 miles north of Ormond Beach at about 11 p.m. July 13.
Rescuers are searching the marshy area around the mouth of Pellicer Creek, near Marineland. "An eyewitness said they heard an engine sputtering, and heard an aircraft," said Flagler County Sheriff's Office spokesman Mark Strobridge.
Two people are believed to have been aboard twin-engine Piper Seminole when it went off radar on its way to Ormond Beach.
The pilot and passenger's identities have not yet been released. Rescuers searching the marshes are treating treating the search as a rescue operation, presuming the pilot and any passengers are still alive, and have found some debris that they believe comes from the missing plane, Strobridge said.
The search is proceeding from both the air and the water, with the U.S. Coast Guard searching using a Jayhawk helicopter as well as watercraft, and the Flagler County Sheriff's Office, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, Flagler County Fire Rescue and the Volusia County Sheriff's Office using a combination of small boats and airboats.
"Sheriff (Rick) Staly is committed to finding these people, and we’re hoping we’ll be able to find them and get them the help they need ... and we’ll stay out here until we do," Strobridge said.
The Piper went down in roughly the same area that another small plane crashed into in 2014. That crash killed pilot Raymond Miller, and deep mud and shifting tides impeded the search and recovery effort for days.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.