By Phil Corso & Elana Glowatz
For the second time in the last couple of weeks, a plane with engine problems made an emergency landing on the North Shore.
The Suffolk County Police Department said a passenger plane flying into Republic Airport in Farmingdale on Saturday afternoon experienced engine failure while flying at 2,000 feet. The pilot, who was with his daughter and returning from visiting colleges, deployed the plane’s parachute at 1,500 feet before crash-landing at an industrial park in Hauppauge.
According to police, after the plane landed just feet from a building on Marcus Boulevard, the pilot pulled his passenger out of the plane. Police said both father and daughter refused medical attention.
The crash-landing happened exactly two weeks after another in Suffolk County, which occurred when a small plane carrying four people experienced engine trouble and went down in Setauket Harbor near Poquott. That incident did not end as safely.
The Piper PA-28, which had taken off from Fitchburg, Mass., and was heading for Republic Airport in Farmingdale, went down on the night of Feb. 20. All four people exited the plane into the water, police said, but only three were rescued. Authorities are still searching for the fourth passenger, 23-year-old Queens man Gerson Salmon-Negron.
The county police said its marine bureau has been out on the water daily, weather permitting, during daylight hours in search of the man both via the surface on boats and using side scan sonar to scan the floor of the water.
At the time the plane was having engine trouble, a student pilot identified as 25-year-old Bronx resident Austricio Ramirez was flying it and turned over the controls to his instructor, 36-year-old Queens resident Nelson Gomez.
Wady Perez, a 25-year-old from Queens, was identified as the other man rescued from the water that night.
Suffolk police were receiving help from the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the U.S. Coast Guard, local fire departments and the town harbormaster in the rescue, missing person search and investigation in that February incident.
In a report released this week, the NTSP 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.