ON LONG ISLAND SOUND — It’s slow going scanning what lies below the waves, watching an image of the bottom crawl by on a Toshiba monitor in brown and sepia tones.
“The tedious search,” Kirby Kurkomelis, a diver, said Saturday as the 45-foot Formula boat inched along at 4 knots. The boat towed two probes — a side-scan sonar device and a magnetometer that senses metal.
“If we were looking for Captain Kidd’s treasure,” Kurkomelis said, “we’d have to go back and forth, back and forth.”
What the crew of four was looking for had nothing to do with pirate lore — it’s the wreckage of a military training plane that crashed into Long Island Sound near Westchester in 1947.
It has emotional weight for Bob Contreras, a 56-year-old Mamaroneck businessman and New Rochelle resident who has spent almost 400 hours scanning the waters for almost a year.
The airplane was flown by Maj. Owen Allred, a famed and decorated World War II ace who served with the 80th Fighter Group, the Burma Banshees, in Asia. Contreras’ father, Walter, was a mechanic who served with Allred. He died in 1984.
After scanning in two areas Saturday, the searchers made no new groundbreaking finds, despite having discovered obviously human-made structures on the estuary floor where fishermen had talked of an old plane wreck. Returning to the area, not far from Stamford, Conn., halfway between Connecticut and Long Island, they found a mass of metal. But Contreras did not think it was the AT-6 training plane they were looking for.
“There’s too much (for it) to be the plane” Contreras said.
Kurkomelis said fishermen sometimes drop metal objects into the water to expand a reef where fish will collect.
With diver Gene Ritter of Cultural Research Divers and his wife, Beth Ritter, they also scanned an area around Great Captain Island off Greenwich.