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HomeNewsArchivesSearchers Locate Wreckage of St. Croix Airplane in Puerto Rico

Searchers Locate Wreckage of St. Croix Airplane in Puerto Rico

Dec. 4, 2008 — Weather conditions in Puerto Rico Thursday made it difficult for search-and-rescue teams to reach the wreckage of a small plane from St. Croix carrying three people.
Two passengers and the pilot, Ken Webster of St. Croix, were headed from Beef Island, British Virgin Islands, to San Juan, according to a spokesman from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The wreckage was scattered over a 200-to-300-meter area of steep and densely forested El Yunque Rain Forest, according to Puerto Rico's director of Emergency Management, Jose Echevarria.
Heavy Rains hampered 21 searchers from the local police department and staff of the Natural Resources Department, including forensic scientists who participated in the hunt for the plane. The wreckage is covered by a thick forest canopy. Searchers on foot and in helicopters had to overcome both the weather and the steep terrain to reach the site.
There was a big fire in the area of the wreckage, Echevarria said.
The plane also carried a pet, presumably a dog, he said. Two bodies were located at the wreckage site, and the search continues for a third.
"Webster was an excellent mechanic and a very good pilot," said Cleo Hodge of Ace Flight Center. Webster had been a pilot for 15 to 20 years. Hodge taught Webster his flight ratings and gave him his Federal Aviation Administration flight checks.
Webster was in the process of expanding his business and was constructing another hangar, according to Hodge.
The pilot is survived by a son and a sister who worked with him at his Websta's Aviation, Hodge said..
"He was a consummate professional and an excellent pilot," said Omer ErSelcuk, president of Seaborne Airlines.
ErSelcuk flew with Webster just two weeks ago to St. Thomas from St. Croix.
"The aircraft appeared to be in pristine condition," ErSelcuk said. "He was one of the top, if not the best, pilots in the Virgin Islands."
NTSB Inspector Todd Gunther arrived Thursday in Puerto Rico, according to NTSB's public affairs officer, Bridget Serchak.
"The investigation has now passed from the Puerto Rico Division of Emergency Services to the NTSB," Serchak said. "The other parties to the investigation include Honeywell, the FAA, the USDA/Forest Service (because the crash occurred in the El Yunque National Forest, which is operated by this U.S. government agency), and other commonwealth and local government authorities."
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