Divers search creek after object seen on sonar


BRUNSWICK, Ga. – U.S. Coast Guard crews and others searching Tuesday for two people who were aboard a twin-engine airplane missing near Georgia’s coastline found debris suspected to be pieces of the plane’s battery and luggage in a marshy area.

Divers are searching an area near St. Simons Island where something was seen on sonar that may be a small plane that crashed Monday evening, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Shawn Etcher, air safety investigator for NTSB, said the twin-engine plane was seen falling out of the sky about 5:45 p.m. Monday.

He said the Piper PA-44 Seminole aircraft lost radio contact with air traffic control and disappeared from radar about 4 miles east of Brunswick Golden Isles Airport. There were no calls of distress on the flight from Concord, N.C., to Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport.

Witnesses called 911 after seeing the plane fall. Local, state and federal officials have since been looking for plane.

Etcher said crews have only been able to pull out small pieces of wreckage, such as parts of the battery and baggage, out of the marshy wetlands of Wallys Leg near Grants Creek.

“At this time, they’ve only been able to pull small pieces out of the water,” he said. “We have not identified the aircraft at this time since we haven’t seen any registration numbers come up on the parts that have surfaced.”

Debris suspected to be pieces of the plane’s battery, pieces of luggage and an exterior component have been pulled from the water, Etcher said.

If the object in the creek is the plane, Etcher said crews will begin recovering the aircraft and its occupants. The area being searched is 12-15 feet deep, he said.

Etcher said if there are victims, the Medical Examiner’s Office will work to identify them. Crews will then gather evidence and transport the aircraft to a facility in Atlanta for further investigation.

Etcher said the weather at the time of the crash was overcast and a little wind, but nothing the plane shouldn’t have been able to handle.

The U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Aviation Administration, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and Glynn County Emergency Management and local police agencies were assisting in the search efforts, which would not continue into the night but would resume Wednesday.

The plane belongs to the ATP Flight School, which is based at Craig Airport.

Marshall Wood, marketing director of Malone AirCharter at Craig, says he was trained by ATP years ago. He calls the company very reputable.

“I know them to be an outstanding company. They do some great training,” Wood said. “I’ve used their service. I was very satisfied.”

Wood says the Piper Seminole aircraft that the company uses are very economical and safe.

Tom Boland, one of the residents who heard the plane fall out of the sky, hopes the plane is found quickly.

“You think of how hard it was for them to find this plane where they knew just about where it went down versus the Malaysian airline, where they’re searching thousands of square miles,” Boland said. “It’s a tragedy.”



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