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Jun 22, 2010 7:06 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Four rescued after seaplane accident in Little Peconic Bay

Jun 22, 2010 7:06 PM

Four men were rescued from a fixed-wing, single-engine seaplane Thursday afternoon after the plane struck a submerged rock while taxiing on Little Peconic Bay and its left pontoon—a flotation device that allows the plane to land on the water—was damaged, according to witnesses and New York State Police.

No one on board the 1999 Cessna Caravan was injured in the accident, which occurred at around 1:18 p.m. off the northern end of Oak Grove Road in North Sea. Local boaters transported the passengers and pilot safely to shore roughly 200 feet away.

Police say high winds may have been a factor. While taxiing over choppy waters, the “wind caught the wing at the wrong moment,” explained State Police Sergeant Arthur Hubbard.

The turboprop plane took off from the East River near 23rd Street in Manhattan, according to Sgt. Hubbard. The pilot, who was identified by police only as being from Vineland, New Jersey, told police his destination was the waters off the Bay View Oaks section of North Sea.

According to State Police, the aircraft made a westerly approach toward Jessups Neck before landing on the water about 2,500 feet from shore. While taxiing toward the shoreline, the pilot said, his port float began to flood after striking an underwater rock, according to police. The pilot told police he tried to beach the plane but was unable to control its direction. He then shut down his engine, and the left wing began to sink, finally striking the bay bottom.

“We were just going out to kayak, and we heard it and we thought it was a speedboat, and we finally saw it sinking,” said Colby Lenahan, 13, of North Sea, who was on a two-person ocean kayak with his friend, David Keane, 15, of West Sayville, at the time of the accident.

“One of the pontoons got a hole in it because they were trying to take back off and it hit something,” David said. “And then the plane started spinning when it was in the water, and the prop hit, and they just stopped.”

They called their friend, Nick Alessandrini, 15, of Noyac, because his family has a boat. Nick arrived in the speedboat with Neal Impellizeri, 14, of Manhasset, and they rescued two passengers from the plane who were wearing business suits, they said.

David added that he and his friends got “drenched” in fuel and had to be hosed off by emergency personnel. A slight fuel odor lingered in the air for hours afterward.

North Sea Fire Department Chief Steve Phillips Jr. said his department was prepared for a possible explosion. “It only takes a little spark,” he said.

Drevet Hugel of Bay View Oaks said he heard about the crash over a police scanner and headed to the scene in his small speedboat and rescued another man from the plane who said he was worried because he couldn’t swim. All four occupants of the plane were wearing life jackets, Mr. Hugel noted. The pilot, he said, stayed with the plane until the U.S. Coast Guard arrived.

For several hours afterward, the plane bounced atop the waves with its left wing partially submerged.

“It was more a marine incident than an airplane crash,” explained Captain Joe Frohnhoefer, the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Sea Tow Services International of Southold. “Once a plane’s in the water, it’s a boat.”

Two rescue divers from Sea Tow managed to balance the plane using 30,000 pounds worth of air bags by 6:30 p.m. that evening, while two additional divers from the North Sea Fire Department stood suited-up nearby as backup, Capt. Frohnhoefer said, adding that they found two punctures in the pontoon.

Once fully afloat, the plane was towed about a mile and a half to Conscience Point in North Sea, where Sea Tow and Southampton Bay Constable Chief Ted Sadleir drained the pontoons, removed the air bags and lowered the wheels. By 10:30 p.m., the plane was back on terra firma, according to the captain.

Capt. Frohnhoefer and Chief Sadleir said Friday the condition of the seaplane was surprisingly good, with all electronic and electric equipment in 
working order and the cabin mostly dry. The Federal Aviation Administration inspected the plane, they said, and it is expected to be airborne again once some minor issues are addressed, such as repairing the pontoon holes and the end of its left wing.

The pilot was present on the beach for several hours after the accident but refused to give his name or comment on the incident.

V1 Jet Management LLC of Manhattan is the registered owner of the plane. The model of plane sells for upward of $1 million, used.

Southampton Fire Department, Southampton Town Police and Southampton Volunteer Ambulance also responded to the scene.

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i heard 4 people were on board does anyone know if they are OK?
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Jun 17, 10 3:19 PM
Its actually in front of Bay View Oaks inthe inlet to Fresh Pond. Based on the waves I doubt it was near Jessup. No one seems to be moving and i didnt see anyone in the ambulance either.
By North Sea Citizen (568), North Sea on Jun 17, 10 4:09 PM
Newsday is reporting it was a seaplane that hit a rock in the water upon landing and that the pilot and passengers are safe. Seatow was called to help remove the plane.
By watermill_mike (35), Sag Harbor on Jun 17, 10 4:49 PM
Update coming shortly, along with photos...
By Joseph Shaw, Executive Editor (206), Hampton Bays on Jun 17, 10 4:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
This is an air disaster like any other, and as such, warrants a full investigation. I only hope that the authorities conduct a full and fair review of what happened here, including an accounting of all the passengers, possible reasons for the crash, and how similar crashes can be avoided in the future. It is so very very sad that an online comment board needs to remind the authorities of their sworn duties...
By Manorville Major (16), manorville on Jun 17, 10 5:07 PM
whats makes you think that you need to remind them or that your comment here is going to serve as the impetus for a thorough review of what happened?
By tm (174), mtk on Jun 17, 10 5:37 PM
3 members liked this comment
"Air disaster like any other"? Like Lockerbie? Tantamount to Tenerife? Omigod M&M, what a hoot! At the risk of introducing facts to your pompous fantasies, damage to an aircraft from striking the surface during takeoff and landing without injuries may not even be considered by FAA/NTSB (who don't need YOU to tell them their jobs) an accident... sometimes just an incident. Kansas would be covered with document warehouses if you were in charge. "Account all passengers"? Do you suspect terrorism? ...more
By Flivver (1), Quahog on Jun 17, 10 6:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
Are You Kidding Me? Dempted To Manorville Buck PVT.
By 1640sWhaler (74), Sag Harbor/Easthampton on Jun 17, 10 9:58 PM
Are You Kidding Me? Demoted To Manorville Buck PVT.
By 1640sWhaler (74), Sag Harbor/Easthampton on Jun 17, 10 9:59 PM
I was playing tennis this morning (9am-10:30am). A sea plane flew over the courts (very low, tree top low, scary low) from the east heading to the bay (2 minutes away). At the time I thought, "what the heck". Now I find out it crashed.
By auntof9 (159), Southampton on Jun 17, 10 6:07 PM
Leave it to a real estate broker to bring a listing into the comments here!

"Simon the Broker" ???

I will never list anything with you!

You are broker indeed.
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jun 17, 10 6:20 PM
3 members liked this comment
PS -- Sigh, Mon, you are Broker for posting your comment!
By PBR (4956), Southampton on Jun 17, 10 6:22 PM
1 member liked this comment
Lesson #1: Reference your tide charts. Low tide was just before noon. Great for clamming. Landing a seaplane in the bay, not so much.
Jun 17, 10 7:12 PM appended by Mr. Z
Oops, my bad, for Sag Harbor, it was just after 10 AM in the bay.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 17, 10 7:12 PM
1 member liked this comment
I am so proud of these four teenagers who acted so maturely and helped in the rescue. Let's put a positive spin on this story in that no one was hurt and that these kids are heroes and should be commended.
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on Jun 17, 10 7:17 PM
No disagreement with you there.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 17, 10 7:20 PM
It took 15 ignorant and stupid comments untill Mrs. Sea posted the good story out of this whole thing, the four boys and nobody was hurt. Bravo young men!!!1
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Jun 17, 10 8:48 PM
Point well taken.

Still, the tide was unusually low, and it hadn't even come up 7 inches by that point in the day. But, you're right, someone should have been congratulatory sooner.

Cutting up foolishness is hard to resist, as is well evident.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jun 17, 10 10:15 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By consciencepoint (16), Southampton on Jun 17, 10 9:19 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By consciencepoint (16), Southampton on Jun 17, 10 9:19 PM
Let us also show our appreciation for the speedy response of North Sea Fire Dept. Yesterday it was a car hitting an electric pole on Noyac Rd, today a plane in the bay. These volunteers are the best !
By consciencepoint (16), Southampton on Jun 17, 10 9:20 PM
2 members liked this comment
The 'suits' were lucky guys...thankfully everyone involved in the rescue was on the scene quickly. Kudos to all the rescuers. Michael Zullo, Upper Eastside Manhattan
By hezull (1), Manhattan on Jun 18, 10 1:19 AM
The seaplane is down at the Southampton Town dock at Conscience Point.
By chairmanoftheBORED (12), Southampton on Jun 21, 10 6:08 PM