Beachgoers watch the Coast Guard search the ocean near 133rd Street in Ocean City Sunday afternoon (Delmarvanow.com)
OCEAN CITY (DELMARVA.NOW/WUSA9) - Greg Shipley with Maryland State Police say that divers have recovered two bodies from the plane crash site in Ocean City. Shipley says operations have been suspended due to incoming storms.
The two men who died were members of the Ocean City Police Department. Officer Thomas J. Geoghegan Jr., 43, of Ocean City, Md., had been serving since 1991. He was currently assigned to the patrol division. Police said in a release that among his other hobbies, he loved to fly airplanes. Joshua D. Adickes, 27, of Berlin, Md. joined the department in the summer of 2011. He is described as "fun-loving, charismatic and liked by all who knew him."
A single-engine plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the beach at 130th Street and disappeared beneath the waves on Sunday. Eyewitnesses reported hearing a plane having engine troubles fly over the beach around 4 p.m. from the west. Several witnesses said they heard the engine sputter and then stop before the aircraft spiraled into the ocean about 500 yards offshore.
The plane was a Nanchang CJ-6A owned by Geoghegan. It took off for an unknown destination from the Ocean City Airport around 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan was on the beach at the rescue command post at 130th Street on Sunday afternoon and wasn't sure how much rescuers would find before nightfall.
"There doesn't appear to be any survivors, because no one has come to the surface," Meehan said.
The mayor confirmed no debris had been found, and the ocean was rough.
"We're in a holding pattern for awhile," he said.
State police headed the search and rescue operations with assistance from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, which had boats out in the ocean searching in a grid pattern. A state police helicopter searched from overhead.
Onlookers sat in beach chairs in the sand and waited with cameras and binoculars to see what had happened to the plane.
State police called in their dive team and said they couldn't confirm how many people were on board or what kind of plane it was until the divers reached the plane, which was about 30 feet below the ocean surface, one-quarter mile off the beach.
"We don't know anything right now," said 1st Sgt. David Sharp. "We're anxious to get the divers in the water."
The Coast Guard out of Portsmouth, Va., reported the plane was a CJ-6A that had taken off from Ocean City Municipal Airport. The aircraft is believed to have a one- to two-seat capacity, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Brandyn Hill.
"It looks like it's on the bottom," he said.
Robert Nicholson of Annapolis, who was with the Air National Guard for 15 years, heard the plane's engine trouble and saw it go down.
"I heard a motor and I looked up ... and he was probably at 4,000-5,000 feet. It looked like the pilot was fighting; he had the rudder moving; he was in a tailspin. The plane was coming around and around, and it was sort of tumbling, like he was kicking the rudder, trying to get it to straighten out," Nicholson said. "The plane would not straighten out and ... he hit the water ... and the plane just went into pieces ... I knew the impact killed him."
Cole Nickoles of Hampstead was on the beach when he heard the plane overhead.
"The engine sounded like it stopped running," he said. "It wasn't making any noise, and it spiraled down right into the water. It was upside down when it hit."
Sean Taladay of North Pittsburgh said, "I just saw a big impact. From my perspective it looked black and large. A big bang. I could see little pieces flying. It was sad. It was like something you see on TV."
Taladay reported the lifeguards on the beach went into action immediately.
"The lifeguards were right on it," he said. "There was immediate action. These people were phenomenal. They were Johnny on the Spot. They were moving as soon as it happened."