Preliminary Report: One fatality in Atlantic Ocean ditch

 - May 15, 2008, 10:06 AM

PIPER PA-31-350, HOLLYWOOD, FLA., JAN. 1, 2002–One passenger died and four others were seriously injured when the pilot was forced to ditch into the Atlantic Ocean after declaring a minimum fuel condition to Miami Center. The flight was en route from North Eleuthera Island to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). As the pilot received a handoff to the FLL tower, he declared an emergency.

Celebrants for an Orange Bowl party gathered at the Dania Beach Pier and were awaiting fireworks when the twin ditched about 300 yards offshore. Fortunately for the victims, among the spectators were two dozen officers from the Broward County Sheriff’s office along with firefighters, paramedics and lifeguards assigned to work the event. According to news accounts, lifeguards from the beach boarded a kayak and paddled out to the sinking aircraft. The wreckage stood in about 15 ft of water. Four people were immediately visible, one with a severe head injury. Rescuers could not find the fifth passenger for nearly 15 min; eventually they found him on the ocean floor.

The flight was a Part 135 on-demand air taxi on an IFR flight plan. The accident occurred shortly after 1800 EST in VMC.