(July 19, 2013) The plane carrying two Ocean City police officers “pancaked” into the water with a slapping sound, “like your hand slapping against the water,” according to a witness statement in the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report on the June 30 fatal crash off 130th Street.
Earlier, one of the witnesses, who was familiar with the China Nanchang CJ-6A airplane owned by longtime seasonal Officer Tom Geoghegan Jr. and had seen it fly over Ocean City and its beaches numerous times, heard the plane’s distinctive engine sound.
He watched the plane make a loop and a barrel roll some distance from shore and described those maneuvers as “slow and lazy.” The plane then flew north out of his sight and he did not notice it return near his location.
When the witness next noticed the airplane, it was in a spiraling descent. It was the first time he had ever seen the plan fly so close to shore. It was also the first time he had ever seen it fly so low.
The preliminary report states the witness said he heard no sound from the plane’s engine and when asked if the sound of boats operating close by could have drowned out the engine noise, he replied in the negative.
That witness also said he saw nothing leave the plane during its descent and the canopy remained intact. He described the plane in a shallow, nose-down descent. It hit the ocean at approximately 4:05 p.m.
Other witnesses gave similar accounts of seeing the plane crash into the ocean.
Geoghegan, 43, held a private pilot certification with a rating for an airplane single engine land. No pilot logbook was recovered, but Geoghegan had reported on his most recent insurance application that he had 819 hours of flight. Of those many hours, 204 were in the accident airplane make and model.
He liked to take fellow police officers for rides in his airplane. On that last flight, his passenger was his friend and fellow officer, Josh Adickes, 27.
Geoghegan’s plane, manufactured in 1980 and registered in the experimental category, had its most recent annual inspection Sept. 12, 2012. At that time, it had 6,576 total aircraft hours.
Most of the airplane was recovered July 4 and a video camera was recovered from its cockpit. That camera was forwarded to the National Transportation Safety Board Recorders Laboratory in Washington, D.C., so its contents could be downloaded.
Video footage and still photography revealed that the airplane appeared intact all the way to the ocean. Sonar mapping and salvage drivers revealed that the entire airplane rested together on the ocean floor, but it was fractured in several places because of its impact with the water. The left wing was lost during the recovery process.
A detailed report will be released after the conclusion of the investigation, which could take several months.