Story last updated on 3.22.16, at 11:20 a.m.
By Elana Glowatz
A dead body found on a beach near Port Jefferson Harbor is not the man who went missing following a plane’s crash-landing at the end of February.
The Suffolk County Police Department said Thursday that Homicide Unit detectives are investigating the man’s death, but it appears he drowned. Authorities identified him as 28-year-old Marlon Lewis, who is homeless.
A Port Jefferson Village code enforcement officer found the body at about 1:45 p.m., police said, at which point police officers responded to the scene at the beach.
Code Chief Wally Tomaszewski said in a phone interview that the code bureau’s Sgt. Steve Grau spotted Lewis’ body in the water near the Centennial Park beach from his position on the village’s dock, in front of the Village Center. The sergeant originally thought the victim was a woman because he was in a dress, according to the chief.
Tomaszewski said the code officers have seen Lewis around the village for the last five years or so, usually uptown in the morning, and he would get food at a soup kitchen in the downtown area on Mondays.
According to police, the Suffolk County medical examiner’s office will perform an autopsy.
Lewis’ body washed up almost four weeks after a small plane, carrying four people, crash-landed in Setauket Harbor near Poquott.
The Piper PA-28 had taken off from Fitchburg, Mass., and was headed for Republic Airport in Farmingdale on Feb. 20 when it experienced engine trouble and the student pilot, 25-year-old Bronx resident Austricio Ramirez, handed the controls over to his instructor.
The National Transportation Safety Board released a report two weeks later that said the aircraft, flying at about 2,000 feet, had low amounts of fuel and had been operating for about five hours since last having its tank filled. The engine eventually lost power and the instructor, 36-year-old Queens resident Nelson Gomez, tried to head for the shoreline, but it was too dark to see it.
That’s when the instructor landed the plane on the water, and told his passengers to take a life vest and exit the plane. However, according to the NTSB report, they were not wearing the vests when they got out of the plane, which floated for about five minutes before sinking nose-first.
Emergency personnel rescued Ramirez, Gomez and a third man, Wady Perez, a 25-year-old from Queens. But the fourth passenger, 23-year-old Queens man Gerson Salmon-Negron, is still missing.