Darwin Carr and Rachel Hamilton drowned when the Piper Aztec piloted by Kirby Hodge went down Oct. 13 about five miles out from Cyril E. King Airport on St. Thomas, according to a press release from Government House issued Tuesday.
Neither passenger suffered blunt force trauma.
Government House spokesman Jean Greaux said the search for Hodge ended at sunset Sunday without finding his body. He is presumed lost at sea.
Valerie Jackson Thompson was the only survivor. She was found in the water about nine hours after the plane went down. Greaux said Tuesday he didn’t know if she was still in the hospital.
According to a report from the National Transportation Safety Board, Thompson told investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Coast Guard that Hodge made it out of the plane.
Thompson told them that she remembered the airplane "hitting a wall" and "seeing a flash" before the airplane filled with water. She said the pilot broke the window on his side of the airplane, and that she and the pilot got out through it. She did not see any of the occupants of the airplane after that.
Greaux said that investigators from the NTSB have been on St. Thomas to investigate the accident. In most fatal airplane crashes, it takes about a year for the final report to be issued.
The plane was spotted Oct. 20 in about 100 feet of water with what searchers initially believed was one body inside. When they investigated further on Oct. 21, they discovered the bodies of both Carr and Hamilton.
Gov. John deJongh, Jr. said Tuesday he received a comprehensive report from the Planning and Natural Resources Department that details the government’s response to the crash.
“Commissioner Alicia Barnes’ report outlines the well-coordinated response and recovery, which integrated the efforts of federal agencies such as the Coast Guard, the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center and local government agencies including Planning and Natural Resources, Port Authority, Fire Services, Police Department, St. Thomas Rescue as well as private companies, contractors and numerous volunteers,” deJongh said.
The report, which was submitted on Monday, provides a chronological outline of all that transpired from the time the flight left St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlsen Airport in the pre-dawn hours of Oct. 13 to the suspension of the search for missing pilot Kirby Hodge on Sunday.
The governor expressed his sincerest appreciation to all who assisted in search for survivors and later in the recovery of both the aircraft and missing passengers.
“I especially want to single out for special recognition, Commissioner Alicia Barnes for her leadership in guiding and directing the efforts of the government’s lead response agency. Director of DPNR Environmental Enforcement Roberto Tapia and his team of officers: Andrea Tromben, Omari Lewis and Gerald Mercer along with Joseph Hodge, Emergency Operations Center Supervisor of VITEMA, spent 15 consecutive days on the waters to the south and west of St. Thomas in an active search for the passengers of the ill-fated aircraft. They each have my appreciation and that of a grateful Virgin Islands community,” de Jongh said.