The headlines in the newspapers that morning in April 2006 read “Pilot Recounts Miraculous Crash Landing at Sea.” We were in St Thomas to dive the W.I.T. Shoal but this article about a new underwater plane wreck was very distracting! It seems that 4 juvenile detainees and 2 corrections officer were being flown from St. Croix to St Thomas on a Piper Navajo owned by the Virgin Islands Department of Justice when the plane’s twin engines stopped working. With great skill, the pilot landed the plane on the water without capsizing. The prisoners’ handcuffs were removed and everyone escaped into a yellow inflatable raft. Nice ending to a horrible story.
But what about the plane wreck? Our attention turned to this new wreck as we tried our DIY investigative skills. Following surface oil spills, plane debris and doing transects while watching our sonar, we were able to locate and dive on this new Virgin Islands’ wreck. We looked and didn’t touch in order not to interfere with the accident scene. As an exercise in shipwreck locating, it was a great success.