STEVENSVILLE — Search crews recovered the bodies of two men missing since a Saturday afternoon helicopter crash into the Chesapeake Bay, authorities said.
The bodies of pilot Charles Knight, 38, of Mount Airy and passenger Matt Clark, 36, of Pasadena were found Saturday night after divers found the largely intact fuselage of the helicopter about 55 feet below the Bay’s surface, Maryland Natural Resources Police said.
A multi-agency search was conducted Saturday, when a helicopter crashed into the Bay near Bloody Point. Natural Resources Police — the lead investigators into the crash — said the wreckage was found around 6 p.m. Saturday. The cause of the crash is still under investigation.
A Federal Aviation Administration official said it was a Guimbal Cabri G2GL helicopter that crashed. The civilian craft had reportedly originated from Tipton Airport, located near Ft. Meade in Anne Arundel County.
Monumental Helicopters, which operates helicopter tours out of Tipton Airport, confirmed they owned the helicopter that crashed and had rented it Saturday morning to a private pilot.
“We are fully cooperating with Maryland Natural Resources police and federal authorities. Until search-and-rescue efforts are complete, we do not have any comment,” the firm said in a statement.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer Second Class Corinne Zilnicki said it received the report of the helicopter crash around 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The call came from boaters in the area who saw the crash.
Capt. Brian Albert of the Natural Resources Police conducted briefings alongside Queen Anne’s County Emergency Services Chief Scott Wheatley as rescue units from the surrounding areas searched for hours.
Albert said there was a field of debris on the surface, none of it bigger than a laptop computer, but the helicopter came to rest largely intact on the floor of the Bay. He said they’ll use inflatable air bags to raise it to the surface, and the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the cause.
The depth of the Bay at the debris field is about 50 to 60 feet, Albert said. Side scan sonar was used to look for irregular objects on the bottom of the Bay as they attempted to locate the fuselage.
The USCG launched a 29-foot response boat crew as well as a boat crew from the Coast Guard Auxiliary. United Community Volunteer Fire Department was the lead agency responding to the crash, Wheatley said. Also responding were units from the National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration, Kent Island Volunteer Fire Department, Anne Arundel County fire department’s dive team, along with additional response from Queen Anne’s and Talbot County Fire and EMS.
Coordinating a multi-agency response is not uncommon, Albert said, and is something all of the above agencies train and prepare for ahead of a response such as this one.
According to Emergency Services Director Scott Haas, they received the call for the helicopter accident at 12:20 p.m. A debris field was located by private vessels in the area.
At the time of the accident, state police aviation was not operating because of poor weather conditions — making the search more difficult, Haas said.
As the search progressed, weather conditions improved and the state police helicopter was able to join in the search efforts, Wheatley said.
As of press time, the Federal Aviation Administration did not have any additional information to provide.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.