(July 5, 2013) In a tragic blow to the local law enforcement community, the Ocean City Police Department lost two officers Sunday when their plane crashed into the ocean off 130th Street just after 4 p.m.
Thomas Geoghegan, 43, was flying his Nanchang CJ-6A airplane with fellow officer Joshua Adickes, 27, in the passenger seat when they went down roughly a half-mile off the coast of the resort’s north end.
After an immediate rescue effort by city emergency crews and Coast Guard Station Ocean City personnel failed to turn up either officer or any debris, the Maryland State Police began a recovery effort lasting through Sunday night and into Monday.
Following at least one false positive, the wreck was pinpointed late Sunday night using sonar boats, with the majority of the debris being located just over a quarter mile off shore under roughly 30 feet of water.
“From what limited discussion I’ve had with our divers, they believe [the plane] is mostly intact,” said Greg Shipley of the Maryland State Police. “I can’t speak to every bit of debris, but they were working with a few large pieces.”
The bodies of both victims were recovered Monday by MSP divers.
“The biggest challenge was the darkness,” Shipley said. “The visibility was near zero. But the desire was to extract both victims as soon as possible and get them back to the surface and back to the families.”
The National Transportation Safety Board will be conducting a full investigation, which will involve raising the aircraft from the ocean floor.
“We are gathering some preliminary information today, but we will really start looking at the aircraft once it is out of the water,” said Terry Williams of the NTSB on Monday. “We’ll also be using other sources of information. We already have a number of eyewitness accounts, and I believe there is some video coming in as well.”
Multiple witnesses on the beach and in surrounding condos reported seeing the plane sharply plummet out of the sky.
“The noise was unbelievable,” said Jackie Mack of Bishopville, who was on the beach at 137th Street. “Everybody on the beach stood up.”
Geoghegan was a long-time amateur pilot who enjoyed taking his friends and co-workers for plane rides, according to information provided by the OCPD. The Nanchang CJ-6A is a Chinese-built aircraft popular amongst enthusiasts. With a single propeller and two inline seats, it has the appearance of a WWII-era fighter plane.
Adickes, originally from Long Valley, N.J., joined the department as a seasonal officer in the summer of 2011 and was hired full-time in 2012, according to the OCPD release. He worked the evening-south shift as a bicycle patrol officer, and was a common sight on the Boardwalk in the summer.
Geoghegan, originally from Annapolis, served his first summer with the department in 1991 and has served often since then, including every summer since 2002. He was a seasoned narcotics detective and undercover operative, who was instrumental in the department’s famous “Tipsy Taxi” operation, in which officers ran a fake taxi service to catch drug dealers who were making sales using taxi cabs.
“I feel like I lost two brothers or sons,” said former OCPD Chief Bernadette DiPino in a message from her current post in Sarasota, Fla. “Being in law enforcement bonds you to the people you work with. We are a family. I was honored to hire Josh last January. I was happy to hire Tom back for many seasons as a seasonal officer.”
“They both represented the best of the Ocean City Police Department,” DiPino said. “They were both hard-working, dedicated police officers who selflessly committed their lives to protecting citizens in Ocean City.”
Although he was only sworn into his position Monday night – little more than 24 hours after the officers’ deaths – newly appointed OCPD Chief Ross Buzzuro also offered support to his new department.
“I know that both of them gave tremendous service to this community and exemplified what it means to be Ocean City’s finest,” Buzzuro said. “As a family – and I stress ‘as a family’ – we will celebrate in triumph and gain strength in tragedy.”