Small Plane Down in Harbor

An aircraft went into the water near the Hilton Bayfront Hotel, according to officials

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The salvage crew that helped tow a small plane that crashed near the Hilton Bayfront Hotel talks to NBC 7 about the efforts to recover the aircraft from the water. Elena Gomez reports. (Published Monday, May 28, 2012)

    An aircraft went into the water near downtown San Diego on Saturday afternoon, according to officials.

    The plane is believed to have gone down at about 4:38 p.m., authorities told NBC 7 San Diego. They said the aircraft went into the water near the Hilton Bayfront Hotel.

    Salvage Crew Speaks After Plane Crash

    [DGO] Salvage Crew Speaks After Plane Crash
    The salvage crew that helped tow a small plane that crashed near the Hilton Bayfront Hotel talks to NBC 7 about the efforts to recover the aircraft from the water. Elena Gomez reports. (Published Monday, May 28, 2012)

    Witness John McClure said he saw the plane right above him just before the aircraft landed on the water.

    The plane was shaking side to side and the propellers stopped according to McClure.

    "I could see the pilots hitting a curve towards land, descending very quickly," said McClure.

    Another witness Tweeted that he heard a loud bang, and then the plane went into the water.

    Witness Pulls Plane Passengers to Shore

    [DGO] Witness Pulls Plane Passengers to Shore
    When a small plane made an emergency landing in the water near the Hilton Bayfront Hotel in downtown San Diego, witness Paul Purcell rushed to the plane in his boat to pull the passengers to safety. NBC 7's Brandi Powell reports. (Published Sunday, May 27, 2012)

    Witness Paul Purcell saw the plane land in the water and rushed over in his boat to help the two passengers aboard the aircraft.

    “They were treading water and they were doing okay. And the one guy said he was fine, that we pulled on our boat,” Purcell told NBC 7 San Diego. “Once I saw that banner free-falling, I knew that they were in real trouble."

    Plane Makes Emergency Landing in Bay

    [DGO] Plane Makes Emergency Landing in Bay
    NBC 7s Brandi Powell talks with witness John McClure about what happened moments before a small plane landed near the Bayfront Hilton Saturday afternoon. (Published Saturday, May 26, 2012)

    “I noticed that he was losing altitude and he kept coming down lower and lower,” added Purcell.

    Witnesses said water splashed everywhere when the plane went down. Fortunately, the two men inside the aircraft bobbed up as the plane quickly went underwater.

    Three boats were on the scene looking for the plane just after it was seen going into the water. One fire engine arrived, but no medics were called to assist.

    The two people inside the plane were not injured according to Lt. James Jordan with the San Diego Harbor Police Department.

    "We consider this to be very fortunate that no one was injured," said Lt. Jordan.

    By Saturday night, the U.S. Coast Guard confirmed the two passengers involved in the emergency water landing were home safely with their families.

    The men were flying banners over the USS Midway for the Memorial Day weekend celebration. They went back in the air Sunday morning to fly the banners, according to officials.

    On Saturday night, the plane was roughly 35-feet underwater and commercial salvage companies were working with the plane owners to get it out.

    On Sunday morning, the plane was being towed by Vessel Assist San Diego using float bags.

    The salvage crew and dive team told NBC 7 San Diego that towing the small aircraft from the water was quite a task, especially since they don't come across this type of situation too often.

    Those who assisted in towing the plane said they were surprised at how well the aircraft held up against the impact of the emergency water landing. They also said the crewmembers aboard the plane were very lucky to have made it out uninjured.

    Audio from the pilots in the cockpit released on Sunday showed there was some kind of mechanical failure that forced the plane to go down.

    The two pilots had just finished flying a patriotic banner over the USS Midway Museum and were on their way back from Gillespie Field when the engine failed.

    The pilots were heard on the audio tape saying they had lost their engine and were going down.

    The supervisor of the pilots told NBC 7 that the two men were happy to be alive after the frightening ordeal.

    “Both of them are religious guys and they felt that the good Lord was with them that day. They called me and I said `Are you okay?' and they said 'Yeah,' he said `We are okay, not a scratch. A little wet but not a scratch,'” said the supervisor.

    The supervisor said the plane had been inspected prior to the flight and they are unsure why the engine shut down.

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