NTSB Identification: ERA16LA109
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Saturday, February 20, 2016 in Port Jefferson, NY
Aircraft: PIPER PA28, registration: N29099
Injuries: 1 Fatal, 3 Minor.
This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed. NTSB investigators may not have traveled in support of this investigation and used data provided by various sources to prepare this aircraft accident report.
On February 20, 2016, at 2305 eastern standard time, a Piper PA-28-181; N29099, owned and operated by Positive Rate Gear Up LLC, was substantially damaged during a ditching in the Setauket Harbor about 1.5 nautical miles northwest of Port Jefferson, New York. The flight instructor, student, and one passenger, received minor injuries, and one passenger is missing and presumed to be fatally injured. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed and no flight plan was filed for the instructional flight conducted under Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 91, which departed from the Fitchburg Municipal Airport (FIT), Fitchburg, Massachusetts, destined for Republic Airport (FRG), Farmingdale, New York.
According to the flight instructor, this was the second leg of an instructional flight that had departed FRG about 1430 for FIT. After spending some time in the Fitchburg area at a university, a restaurant, and a local Walmart, they returned to the airport and departed at approximately 2040 for FRG.
After takeoff, they departed the airport traffic area to the southwest and climbed to 4,500 feet above mean sea level (msl) on a direct heading for FRG. The flight instructor estimated that he had a headwind of 30-40 knots, and his groundspeed was approximately 81 knots during the cruise portion of the flight. He stated that there was no indication of any malfunction of the airplane. As the airplane passed over the Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport (BDR), Bridgeport, Connecticut, they turned southbound and crossed Long Island Sound at that point as there was less water to fly over in this location. They started a slow descent also as they passed over BDR, and upon reaching the area of Port Jefferson, New York, leveled off around 2,000 feet msl. the engine then "sputtered." The flight instructor immediately turned on the electric fuel pump and instructed his student to switch the fuel selector to the left fuel tank and to maintain 2,000 feet msl. Once the fuel selector had been selected to the left fuel tank, the engine stopped sputtering.
The pilot informed air traffic control that he they wanted to divert to ISP, which at the time was only 10 nautical miles south of them. They continued to fly for another 2-3 minutes when the engine sputtered again and then lost power. He then took control of the airplane from the student pilot and advised the tower controller at ISP that he was declaring an emergency. The flight instructor then made a 180 degree turn to the right, and headed for the shoreline since he believed this was the best suitable place for landing, and knew from experience that the area along the shore was normally clear of obstacles and houses. As they descended, he was unable to see the shoreline due to the darkness and decided to ditch the airplane as close as he could to the shoreline, judging his distance from the shore by using the lights from the houses. He then held the airplane off the water for as long as possible to keep from touching down on the water with excessive airspeed and risk nosing over as the airplane was equipped with fixed landing gear.
Upon touching down, the flight instructor opened the cabin door and instructed everyone to exit the airplane, and to grab the life vest that was located in the baggage compartment of the airplane and to hold on to him. The student pilot then handed him the life vest. One of the passengers then jumped into the water and started swimming for shore. The second passenger then also jumped into the water. The student pilot was the last to egress from the airplane. Neither the student pilot nor the passengers were wearing life vests.
After the pilot reported the engine failure to ISP and that they were going to attempt to land on the north shore of Long Island, the tower controller immediately notified emergency responders. A Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD) Helicopter was airborne at the time, and was provided with radar vectors, and immediately proceeded toward the last known location of airplane. Approximately 3 minutes later, the airplane was located by the SCPD helicopter.
Patrol Officers from SCPD also responded to the shoreline and after locating several kayaks behind a residence, made their way onto the water and after hearing screams for help, paddled out towards the spotlight from the helicopter, rescued one of the passengers, and then with the assistance of an SCPD Marine Patrol boat, the flight instructor. The student pilot was also rescued by a Patrol Officer who entered the water on foot and threw a life ring to him and then pulled him to shore. A search by SCPD, and the United States Coast Guard for the missing passenger was also initiated, and at the time of this preliminary report, the missing passenger has not been located.
After the ditching, the airplane remained afloat for about 5 minutes before it sank nose first to the bottom of the bay, and came to rest on its landing gear, about 100 feet northwest of Buoy S8. Charted water depth in the area was between 1 and 3.5 feet however, the airplane ditched just after high tide so there was an additional 5 feet of water. Only 1 foot of the vertical stabilizer was visible above the water's surface at the time.
Examination of the airplane after recovery revealed that, it was substantially damaged due to salt water immersion, a broken engine mount, and damage to the aft fuselage structure just forward of the stabilator. Flight control continuity was able to be established from the flight controls in the cockpit to the ailerons, stabilator, and rudder. The stabilator trim was neutral. The wing flaps were in the fully extended (40-degree) position. Both wing flaps also exhibited impact damage, and the right wing flap's actuating linkage was fractured. The throttle was full forward, the mixture was full rich, the carburetor heat control was in the "OFF" position, and the primer was in and locked. The fuel selector was in the left fuel tank position.
Examination of the engine revealed that, it contained oil in the galleries and rocker box covers. Drive train continuity was also able to be established, and thumb compression was present for all four cylinders. Internal examination of the cylinders also did not reveal any anomalies of the cylinders, piston heads, or valves. Internal examination of the magnetos also did not reveal any preimpact anomalies.
Examination of the fuel system did not reveal evidence of fuel in either the left or right fuel tanks, nor in the fuel strainer, or carburetor float bowl. Examination of aircraft rental and fueling records also revealed that the airplane had been operated for 5.1 hours since it was last refueled.
The flight instructor held a commercial pilot certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine land, airplane multi-engine land, and instrument airplane. He also held a flight instructor certificate with ratings for airplane single-engine, and instrument airplane. His most recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) first-class medical certificate was issued November 12, 2015. He reported 2,800 total hours of flight time, of which 1,400 were in the accident airplane make and model.
The student pilot reported that he had accrued 20 total hours of flight time, 19 of which were in the accident airplane make and model.
According to FAA and maintenance records, the airplane was manufactured in 1979. The airplane's most recent 100 hour inspection was completed on January 12, 2016. At the time of the accident, the airplane had accumulated 5,173.97 total hours of flight time.
FAA Flight Standards District Office: FAA Farmingdale FSDO-11
The single-engine aircraft was raised from Setauket Inlet Sunday.
The Coast Guard called off the search for 23-year-old Gerson Salmon-Negron Sunday.
Authorities say the Piper PA-28 small plane went down around 11:35 p.m., landing in Setauket Harbor. The plane was pulled out of the water Sunday night.
Suffolk County police say two people were rescued after the crash and a third person also has been accounted for.
At 11:00 Saturday night, the four-seater plane from Massachusetts made an emergency landing after the engine lost power in the waters off Setauket. Eyewitness News is told there were four men on board. Emergency crews raced to the scene but their only guiding light was from the helicopter above.
Suffolk County Police officers on the scene heard cries for help from the water. They didn't have time to ask for permission. They grabbed what kayaks they found from neighbors' homes, and rowed out to the exhausted and freezing victims.
"Officers arrived to the scene, made their way down to the shoreline, commandeered kayaks from local residents and went into the water to rescue these victims," said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini.
A student pilot, Austricio Ramirez, was flying at the time the plane began experiencing difficulties and turned the controls over to the instructor pilot, Nelson Gomez, according to police.
Gomez landed the plane in Setauket Harbor and all four occupants were able to exit the plane into the water. Three men, Ramirez, Gomez, and Wady Perez, were rescued by Suffolk County Police officers. The fourth, Salmon-Negron, remains missing.
Arlene Salac, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said early Sunday that the pilot reported engine trouble and made the "forced landing."
She said the FAA is investigating and the National Transportation Safety Board will determine the probable cause.
Ramirez, 25, from the Bronx, Gomez, 36, from Queens, and Perez, 25, from Queens, were all transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where they were treated and released.
Suffolk County Police called off their search at 7 p.m. Sunday, but will resume at 9 a.m. Monday. This is now being called a 'recovery effort', and not a rescue.
Original article can be found here: http://abc7ny.com