OCEAN CITY — More details have emerged on the fatal June 30 plane crash that claimed the lives of two off-duty Ocean City police officers as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has released its preliminary investigation report.
On Sunday, June 30, a two-seat Nanchang CJ-6A plane piloted by OCPD Officer Tom Geoghegan with Pfc. Joshua Adickes on board crashed into the ocean just off the beach at 130th Street, killing the two officers. The victims’ bodies were recovered the following day, but rough seas and poor conditions prevented investigators from raising the plane in the days immediately following the crash.
On July 4, the wrecked plane was salvaged from the ocean floor and taken by barge to the commercial harbor in West Ocean City where it was later transported to a facility in Delaware where NTSB officials began their investigation. The NTSB’s preliminary report included witness information on the moments leading up to the tragic incident.
According to the NTSB report, several witnesses provided written and verbal statements to the Ocean City Beach Patrol, the Maryland State Police and the OCPD and the statements were largely consistent throughout. Most described the airplane as it descended in a steady state, nose down spin to water contact. Some described it as a “flat spin” while others described it as “flat” or a “belly flop.”
In a telephone interview with NTSB, one witness said he was familiar with the plane and had watched it fly over Ocean City and its beaches many times. The witness said about 15 minutes prior to the accident, he heard the plane’s distinctive engine sound and called his friends’ attention to it. The witness said he watched one “loop” and one “barrel roll” and described the maneuvers as “slow” and “lazy” and some distance from the shore. The witness said the plane then flew out of his sight to the north and he didn’t notice it return to his location.
The witness next noticed the plane in a spiraling descent. He told NTSB investigators he did not see the plane depart controlled flight and said he had never seen the plane fly close to the shore before.
“He has never been that low or that close to the shore,” the witness told NTSB investigators.
When the witness was asked about the sound of the engine, he said there was none. When asked if the sounds of boats operating close by could have drowned out the plane’s engine noise, he told NTSB investigators, no.
The witness told the NTSB nothing departed the plane during the descent and said he noticed the canopy was still on the plane throughout the descent. He described the plane in a shallow, nose-down descent and added that the airplane’s altitude was nearly flat and that it pancaked into the water with a slapping sound, “like your hand slapping against the water.”
The NTSB determined Geoghegan held a private pilot certificate with a rating for airplane single engine land. His most recent third-class medical certificate was issued in November 2009. No pilot logbook was recovered, but on Geoghegan’s most recent insurance application, he reported 819 total hours of flight experience of which 204 were in the same airplane make and model as the crashed plane.
The aircraft was manufactured in 1980 and registered in the experimental category. It’s most recent annual inspection completed in September 2012 revealed it had 6,576 total aircraft hours. The majority of the plane was recovered on July 4.
Video footage as well as still photography revealed the plane appeared to be intact all the way to water contact. Sonar mapping and salvage divers revealed the entire plane rested together on the ocean floor but was fractured in several places due to impact. The left wing was lost during the recovery.
A video camera was recovered from the cockpit and has been forwarded to the NTSB Recorders Laboratory in Washington, D.C. for download. The NTSB said in the report the information provided is preliminary and is subject to change. Any errors in the report will be corrected when the final report is released at a later date. NTSB either traveled in support of the investigation or conducted a significant amount of investigative work without any travel and used data obtained from various sources to prepare the aircraft accident report.