Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wreckage found under 25 feet of water leaves authorities searching for answers

By Ron Colquitt
March 12, 2008

A fisherman experimenting with his new sonar detection device discovered the wreckage of a single-engine airplane this week under about 25 feet of water in Big Creek Lake, authorities said.

The fisherman, Teddy Shepherd, made the discovery about noon Monday near the lake's boat ramp. The plane appeared to be upside down but not badly broken up, he said.

"At first I didn't believe it and had to take a second look," he said. "There is not supposed to be a plane under water."

Kate Johnson, Mobile County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, said divers with the Sheriff's Flotilla went down Tuesday and did not find any bodies in or near the plane, which was identified as a Beechcraft Sierra.

She said the water was murky, and the divers had trouble reading the plane's tail number. As a result, they are not sure if they got the right number to report to the Federal Aviation Administration to help determine ownership.

Johnson said flotilla members brought up a seat cushion, part of the landing gear and what appeared to be a side window. She said no drugs or personal items that would help identify the plane's owner or the pilot were found during the dives.

There have been no reports of recent plane crashes in that area of northwest Mobile County, she said.

That type of plane carries four people and has retractable landing gear, according to Jim Coleman, a Baldwin County attorney and private pilot. Coleman did not see the plane but was told about it by the Press-Register.

The Mobile Area Water and Sewer System regulates the lake, which is the city's drinking water source.

"The only concern for water quality is if the plane is moved," MAWSS Director Malcolm Steeves said Tuesday. "We would hope there would be care taken to contain any fuel or other cargo that might have potential for causing problems."

Johnson said it could be days or weeks before the plane is removed.

Shepherd, 45, said he bought the sonar device for $1,000 four days before he took it to Big Creek Lake to try it out. He purchased it from a Baldwin County search and rescue organization.

Shepherd uses the instrument to search for underwater objects, such as trees or parts of old bridges, that attract fish. It can detect objects up to 400 feet deep.

Coleman, the 52-year-old attorney, has been a pilot for about 10 years and volunteers with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in its searches for missing people, dead bodies and water pollution.

He said there is a small grass landing strip near the lake and other places nearby that a pilot could put a plane down in an emergency. The lake also is just a few miles north of Mobile Regional Airport.

Coleman said the plane has two doors, so it would be easy for an uninjured person to escape in an emergency.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw this in the Mobile Press-Register. I first published it in


Mystery of plane wreckage solved
Authorities link submerged wreckage to pilot whose body was found in lake in 1982
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Staff Reporter
The mystery of who was flying a plane found at the bottom of Big Creek Lake this week appears to have been solved.

Kate Johnson, a Mobile County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, said authorities believe the pilot was Richard Doug Flint, 43, whose body was found in the lake about two weeks after the Beechcraft Sierra he was flying went down on March 15, 1982.

Then on Monday, a fisherman experimenting with his new sonar detection device discovered the wreckage of the single-engine airplane near the boat ramp on the northeast side of the lake in northwest Mobile County.

Johnson said the Sheriff's Office traced the plane back to Flint with the help of the Federal Aviation Administration and calls from people who remembered the crash.

When given the tail number, the FAA was able to confirm that Flint was flying the plane, said Johnson, who declined to release that number to the Press-Register.

Dorris Englund, who owned Englund's Flying Service with her husband, told the newspaper Wednesday that Flint had rented the plane from the couple's business.

A newspaper report at the time said Flint flew to Freeport, Texas, and stopped in Waynesboro, Miss., on the way back to Mobile.

Englund, 84, a former pilot, said she and her late husband, Leonard Englund, determined back then that Flint never refueled during the trip. As a result, he may have run out of fuel just short of Mobile Regional, she said.

Johnson said the cause of the crash will be determined by the National Transportation Safety Board. It had not been decided Wednesday when the plane will be raised, so it can be examined by NTSB.

Newspaper accounts at the time of the crash said Flint's body was found on the west side of the lake, which is more than a mile away from where the plane was found in 25 feet of water.

1:45 AM  
Anonymous Pedro Caleja said...

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12:34 PM  
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9:03 PM  

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