Small Plane Crashes in Bay off Smith Island; Pilot Swims to Shore, Passenger Dead

RHODES POINT, Md. (October 3, 2011)—Maryland State Police, Natural Resources Police, and US Coast Guard resources were on the scene of the crash of a small plane in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay off Smith Island Sunday night. The pilot was able to swim ashore from the wreckage. He told police his elderly mother was onboard the plane and made it into the water with him, but subsequently passed away.

Shortly before 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Maryland State Police helicopter Trooper 4, from Salisbury, was dispatched for an aerial search of the Chesapeake Bay off Somerset County. Officials at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station called the State Police Aviation Command dispatch center and said they had been talking with a pilot who reported trouble with his aircraft and said he was trying to make it to Smith Island. His small plane had disappeared from radar, according to Pax River officials.

The US Coast Guard joined the State Police search by dispatching an aircraft and vessel into the area. Officers from the Maryland Natural Resources Police responded to assist in the search with two of their boats. A second Maryland State Police helicopter, Trooper 7 from St. Mary’s County, also joined in the search.

At about 8:00 p.m. Sunday, officials were notified by residents on Smith Island that the pilot of the plane was on the island. The pilot reported he swam to shore from the plane after it crashed in the Bay.

The pilot was flown by State Police Trooper 4 from Smith Island to the Peninsula Regional Medical Center for a medical evaluation. His injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

The pilot told State Police at the hospital that his elderly mother was on-board the single-engine aircraft he owned. He said both were able to get out of the aircraft after it crashed and before it sank. The pilot said his mother passed away while they were in the water. The female victim has not been recovered at this time. It is believed the plane was within three miles of Smith Island when it crashed into the water.

Natural Resources Police officers on boats remained in the water in the area of the crash to continue the search for the female passenger. State Police investigators from the Princess Anne Barrack responded to conduct an investigation.

State Police have notified officials with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration. Those agencies will be responsible for investigating the cause of the crash.

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