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Environmental Monitors Die in Plane Crash

Right Whale Observers Die in Plane Crash off Florida Coast
I don't know any of these folks personaly, however environmental observers all work very hard trying to protect the environemnt often in very dangerous places. Just thought Id share.

Plane crash wreckage, bodies found

Searchers have found the plane that crashed Sunday while looking for right whales off the coast of Amelia Island.

Two of three bodies still in the plane were recovered by a Nassau County Sheriff's Office diver yesterday. Officials said they hope to recover the third body when they attempt to raise the plane from the ocean floor tomorrow.

On board the 1969 Cessna 337-02A were pilot Tom Hinds, 40, of Fernandina Beach; Emily Argo, 25, of Wellfleet, Mass.; Michael Newcomer, 49, of Los Altos, Calif.; and Jacqueline Ciano, 47, of Massachusetts.

The four had been flying about eight miles off the coast looking for whales about 3:15 p.m. Sunday when they radioed back to shore that they had spotted whales. They also had contact with two other aircraft, then said they were beginning a descent to 500 feet. That was the last anyone heard from them.

Ciano's body was found about seven hours after the crash. Searchers also located some surface debris. The Coast Guard, citing the unlikelihood that there were any survivors, called off its search and rescue Tuesday.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources then began a search and recovery operation with the assistance of Nassau County Sheriff's Office boats and divers. Using a "side scanner," a 3-foot-long, torpedo-shaped device that is pulled behind a boat and sends sonar to the ocean floor, searchers located the aircraft about 65 feet down at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

"These guys have just taken a needle in a haystack and found it," Nassau County Undersheriff Tommy Seagraves said.

DNR plans to try to raise the wreckage tomorrow and put in on a floating platform, Seagraves said.

Hinds was a pilot for Environmental Aviation Services of Fernandina Beach, and the other three worked for the Wildlife Trust.

The four victims were trying to document the movements of right whales so that they could help ships avoid potentially fatal collisions with the whales.

Staff writer Derek L. Kinner can be reached at (904) 261-7606, extension 106, or dkinnerjacksonville.com.