• Flagler County plane crash: Wreckage located; No apparent survivors

    By: Action News Jax


    Authorities say the main body of a plane that went down at the St. Johns County line has been located. 

    Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly said there is no indication of survivors after the plane crashed near the St. Johns County/Flagler County Line.

    “(This is) a tragic ending to a search," Staly said. "You always hope you’ll find people alive."

    Photos: Plane wreckage located in Flagler County

    A flight school instructor and student are believed to have been on the plane. 

    The Federal Aviation Administration reported that it lost contact with a Piper PA44 aircraft around 11 p.m. on Thursday. The plane was flying from Brunswick to Ormond Beach.

    James Kestner heard the plane when it started sputtering. 

    "It was clearly an engine flaming out," Kestner said. "I heard a loud boom and the ground actually shook.”

    "'I’m thinking, this can’t be happening, really. Clearly an engine problem. Flame out, very loud noise, and five or six later ... boom."

    Officials began searching for the plane and survivors after a witness reported seeing an aircraft go down in the Marineland area. 

    Sunrise Aviation Academy in Ormond Beach said a 27-year-old student from Saudi Arabia and a 70-year-old instructor from Central Florida were missing after they were dispatched to Brunswick Thursday night.

    The U.S. Coast Guard launched a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter at 2:15 a.m. to search for survivors after St. Johns County Fire Rescue alerted the about the situation.

    Staly had said it was possible that three people were on the plane but FAA reported there were two occupants.

    Staly said it appeared the plane went straight down, and that heavy equipment will be needed to get to the crash site. 

    Agencies involved in the search include the Flagler County Sheriff's Office, St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, St. Johns County Fire Rescue, Volusia County Sheriff's Office, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    “We’ve found evidence pieces of an aircraft we’re not sure that’s actually the aircraft," FCSO Chief Mark Strobridge said early Friday. "Things could have been there for a number of years we’re not really sure we haven’t be able to get close enough to identify those pieces that belong to this particular aircraft the FAA has told us about.

    Joshua Cawthra, NTSB’s Senior Aviation Accident Investigator, told Action News Jax on Saturday they are in the first stage of their investigation: recovering the debris.

    Cawthra said the wreckage will be crucial in helping them figure out what caused the plane to go down.

    “Once I get the aircraft recovered, it's going to go to a secure location up in Jacksonville,” Cawthra said. “We will look at every bit of the airplane, extremely in-depth, to either find something that went wrong or to rule it out.

    Investigators will also look into the history of the two men on board and examine if the environment played a factor.

    Cawthra said it could take up to two years for the full report, along with the probable cause, to be released.

    “It's a pretty complex process. We've got a lot of pieces to put back together. It's a fairly lengthy time frame,” Cawthra said.

    He expects a preliminary report to be released by Friday.



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