Friday, August 09, 2019

Piper PA-34-200 Seneca, N40702: Accident occurred August 08, 2019 in Bimini, Bahamas

Federal Aviation Administration / Flight Standards District Office; South Florida

Aircraft crashed in the ocean under unknown circumstances.

5 J Aviation Services LLC

Date: 08-AUG-19
Time: 13:10:15Z
Regis#: N40702
Aircraft Make: PIPER
Aircraft Model: PA34
Event Type: ACCIDENT
Highest Injury: UNKNOWN
Aircraft Missing: No
Activity: PERSONAL
Flight Phase: EN ROUTE (ENR)
Operation: 91

MIAMI - Bahamian officials on Friday identified three people who survived a plane crash Thursday off Bimini as Morel Trimpin Aldrich Reubens, who was the pilot, Joaquin Nova Sr. and Joaquin Nova Jr.

According to the Air Accident Investigation Department of The Bahamas, the survivors, who were the only people onboard the Piper PA-34 aircraft, returned home Thursday afternoon. 

"Thank God for the miracle of being alive," Novoa Jr. said in a statement Friday to Local 10 News. "I want to thank the pilot for landing tail first. That saved us. I want to thank the fishermen from Key Largo for rescuing us out of the water. And thanks to everyone at Cat Cay and the Bahamian Police who attended to us. And big, huge thanks to Tropic Ocean for flying us back to Fort Lauderdale."

Recovery efforts are now underway to recover the small airplane from the water.

Officials said U.S. Coast Guard crews based in Miami responded to the site of the crash 20 miles east of Bimini, but a group of friends from the Florida Keys, who were on a fishing and diving trip, spotted the plane's yellow emergency life raft in the ocean and picked up the men.

"As we got closer, we realized it was a life raft, and we were pretty taken aback," Danny Hampson said.

Hampson's father, Tim, who was manning the 35-foot Contender center console, said they steered the boat closer to the raft to make contact with the three men sitting on it.

"It was crazy. We asked what happened and they said, 'Our plane just crashed,'" Tim Hampson said.

The Hampsons -- along with Mark Wheaton, Rick Suarez, Steve Oropeza and Allen Wood -- helped the three men aboard and gave them water.

They said the men told them they were from Miami and had been sitting on that raft for more than an hour.

"They were all kind of in shock. There were no bad injuries, thank god," Tim Hampson said. "They said the plane sunk in about a minute's time."

Officials said the three survivors were transferred to Bahamian authorities in Cat Cay before they returned home.

According to Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen, the small plane had departed from Great Harbour Cay Airport in The Bahamas and was flying to Miami Executive Airport when it crashed.

The Air Accident Investigation Department of The Bahamas is investigating the cause of the crash. 

Story and video ➤

Three people are not only lucky to survive a plane crash on Thursday, they also have a fishing boat to thank for plucking them out of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Piper PA-34-200 Seneca, with a pilot and two passengers, went down about 20 miles east of Bimini, the westernmost island in the Bahamas, on Thursday while traveling from Great Harbour Cay Airport to Miami Executive Airport.

The passengers inflated a yellow emergency raft and alerted the Coast Guard. But the professionals ended up not being needed.

A group of fishermen out for a day on their boat made the rescue instead.

"We were about 25 miles from Cat Cay on our way to Great Harbour, when we came across the life raft with three guys in it," Tim Hampson, one of the fishermen, told ABC News. "And we pulled up to them, asked what was up, and they were like, 'We just scratched our airplane like an hour ago.'"

"No one was hurt, they were just all in a little bit of shock," he continued. "One gentleman was 80 years old, which gave us some concern, but he was a real trooper -- probably the toughest one of the group, for sure."

The fishermen ended up taking the rescued trio to Cat Cay in the Bahamas.

"It was a gift from God for sure," Hampson said. "And things can go wrong really quickly, and lucky for them that it didn't, for sure."

The Piper PA-34-200 Seneca can be seen on the shallow bottom of the clear blue-green waters in video released by the U.S. Coast Guard.

The crash is still under investigation.

"We could have been looking the other way for just an instant and we might have not seen them," Hampson told ABC News. "It could have been a little rough, and the waves could have hit 'em. So yeah, it was meant to be, and we're glad we were there to help.

"Just did what anyone else would really do and thankful we were able to help."

Story and video ➤

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