Story last updated 4.11.2016, 1:30 p.m.
Police have identified the body found near a beach off Setauket Harbor on Monday morning, linking him back to an emergency crash-landing that happened nearby in February, Suffolk County cops said.
Gerson Salmon-Negron, 23, was last seen shortly after 11 p.m. on Feb. 20 when the Piper Archer four-seated airplane he was in went down in the waters of Setauket Harbor with three others on board. His body was finally found on Monday morning after a 911 call told dispatchers about a body spotted on the beach near Brewster Lane in Setauket around 9:10 a.m., the Suffolk County Police Department said.
The three other men, student pilot Austricio Ramirez, 25, Nelson Gomez, 36, and Wady Perez, 25, were rescued by nearby neighbors and officers soon after the crash. The small plane had taken off from Fitchburg, Mass., en route to Republic Airport in Farmingale, but went down near the vicinity of 108 Van Brunt Manor Road in Poquott. The incident spurred residents living on the Strongs Neck side of the water to jump into action as soon as they noticed emergency vehicles making their way into the small North Shore community.
As the incident unfolded, residents living along the shoreline started offering up their personal kayaks for rescuers to use to lift the survivors out to safety.
“Where this occurred, there are only a few homes, but instantly, the neighbors pulled together,” resident Margo Arceri said in a previous interview after the crash occurred. “They say, ‘it takes a village,’ and these neighbors showed a real sense of community. We all pulled together immediately. I just wish it had a happier ending.”
In a report released in March, the National Transportation Safety Board said that aircraft reported low amounts of fuel and had been operated for about five hours since its tank was last filled. The report said the plane’s engine “sputtered” as it approached the Port Jefferson area, spurring the flight instructor to turn on the electric fuel pump and instructing his student pilot to switch the fuel selector to the plane’s left fuel tank as it flew at around 2,000 feet. The sputtering stopped, but started up again about three minutes later, the NTSB said, and then lost power.
That was when the pilot instructor took control of the plane and tried heading to the shoreline, where he believed the plane could safely land, the NTSB report said. But the pilot was unable to see the shoreline due to the darkness and could only guess where the shoreline began by the lights inside of nearby houses, the report said.
He held the plane off of the water for as long as he could before touching down and instructing everyone to grab a life vest and exit the plane, the NTSB said. Neither the student pilot nor the passengers, however, were wearing life vests when they exited the plane, the report said. Emergency personnel were on the scene within minutes and rescued three of the four men.
The airplane floated in the water for about five minutes before sinking nose-first to the bottom of the harbor, the NTSB said.