Suffolk County police divers pulled the bodies of two Queens men from a small airplane that they raised after it sank under about 30 feet of water near Moriches Inlet in East Moriches on Saturday afternoon.
A U.S. Coast Guard boat from nearby Station Shinneock was first on the scene when witnesses called 911 reporting the low-flying aircraft sputtering over the east end of Smith Point County Park on Fire Island and hit the water shortly after 3 p.m.
The victims, identified as Cyril Mclavin, 51, and 72-year-old Andrew Messana, were taken to the medical examiner’s office for autopsies. The resurfaced wreckage was taken to the police impound unit.
Witnesses reported a “large chunk” of the plane fell off, althought it was unclear if that was before or after the plane crashed, Deputy Inspector Chris Hatton, chief of the Marine Bureau, told reporters at a press conference near the scene.
Two teams of three divers alternated in shifts in the 64-degree water to free the trapped victims, a task that became harder when the plane sank upside down and settled on a rock jetty, he said.
Federal Aviation Administration and National Safety Transportation Board investigators will continue the probe. An FAA spokeswoman said the the Globe Swift took off from Spadaro Airport in East Moriches, but it was not immediately clear where it was destined.
Fishermen in the area who reported the crash tried to rescue the pilot and passenger but were unable to open the cockpit door, the Coast Guard said. They tied a rope to the plane to prevent it from drifting while the tide was going out at the time.
The incident came after a single-engine plane crash landed and burst into flames about eight miles away on a Shirley side street minutes after taking off from nearby Calabro Airport in August, killing two and critically injuring a third person. It is also a few miles from where TWA Flight 800 exploded over the Atlantic Ocean on July 17, 1996, killing all 230 on board.
Moriches Inlet, formed by the nor’easter of 1931, is considered such a treacherous passage between the ocean and Moriches Bay that it is not marked by buoys because the Coast Guard officially considers it “non-navigable.”
-With Rashed Mian