Search underway after small plane crashes off Cape May

(Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer Patrick D. Kelley)

(Courtesy of U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer Patrick D. Kelley)

A single-engine plane crashed into the water off Cape May County late Wednesday morning, officials said.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Andy Kendrick told The Press of Atlantic City that a bystander reported a downed plane in the ocean off Cape May Point. The Coast Guard dispatched several boats to the scene, and a New Jersey State Police helicopter responded, discovering a fuel slick and debris.

The Cape May Fire Department and lifeguards also helped with the search. A State Police boat crew located the plane in 18 feet of water using a sonar device and were working with the Coast Guard to recover the aircraft as of late Wednesday afternoon.

A Federal Aviation Administration statement said one person was aboard the Mooney M20J plane that departed the Trenton-Robbinsville Airport around 8 a.m, adding that the aircraft crashed about 1,200 feet from the Cape May Lighthouse.

The male pilot who flew recreationally was a regular customer of the Air-Mods Flight Training Center at the Trenton-Robbinsville Airport, according to Lisa Campbell, owner of the plane and the center’s operator. Campbell said the pilot’s credentials and the aircraft were “all in order.”

She said the pilot, who has not been identified, wasn’t one of the banner carriers that are ubiquitous at the shore.

In the Facebook group Cool Cape May, eyewitness Brady Myers wrote that the plane “came very low near Steger beach and then skimmed [the] water, shot up, and then nose-dived.” Lifeguards reportedly swam out to the site.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This is a developing story.

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