BRUNSWICK, GA - U.S. Coast Guard crews and others searching Tuesday for two people who were aboard a small plane assumed to have left from North Carolina, found debris suspected to be pieces of the plane's battery and luggage in a marshy area near Georgia's coastline.
The twin-engine plane disappeared from radar Monday evening in the St. Simons Island area. Residents heard "crash-like noises" near Grant Creek on Mackay River, authorities have said.
The Piper PA-44 is believed to have crashed four miles east of the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport shortly after 7 p.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement. The plane departed from Concord, N.C., and was destined for Jacksonville Executive Airport at Craig Field in Florida, the FAA said.
The Coast Guard, sheriff's officials and Georgia Department of Natural Resources crews reported "multiple debris fields consistent with a small plane crash" but had not yet located the passengers as of Tuesday afternoon.
Authorities using sonar devices found objects in a marshy area of water roughly 12 to 15 feet deep, National Transportation Safety Board Air Safety Investigator Shawn Etcher said during a news conference.
"At this time, they've only been able to pull small pieces out of the water," he said, adding that the NTSB hasn't officially identified the plane since the debris didn't carry any of its identifying information.
Concord city spokesman Peter Franzese told the Independent-Tribune of Concord, N.C., that the plane was operated by ATP Flight School out of the Concord Regional Airport. Franzese said FAA records show the plane that departed the city for Jacksonville, Fla., was registered to ATP Aircraft 2 LLC in Wilmington, Del. A call to ATP wasn't answered Tuesday evening, and an FAA spokesman said she couldn't confirm the information until local authorities release the IDs of people on board.
Debris suspected to be pieces of the plane's battery, pieces of luggage and an exterior component have been pulled from the water, Etcher said.
The debris was concentrated in a relatively small space and divers were searching along with boats from several law enforcement agencies, Etcher said. The debris was located near Wally's Leg, an area of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, said Sgt. Chris Hodge of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
The cause of the crash is unclear and the identities of the people on board haven't been released.