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Plane crashes into bay near Port O'Connor; 2 missing

By Victoria Advocate
July 3, 2011 at 2:03 a.m.

Wreckage from a plane crash floats in Matagorda Bay on Sunday afternoon. The plane, which was carrying two people, took off around 10 a.m. from Pierce Field, a private airport on the Matagorda Peninsula. Two Coast Guard boats, a helicopter and Texas game warden boats were in Matagorda Bay searching for the two people.

Area plane crashes

PORT O'CONNOR - A helicopter traveling to an oil platform during rain showers crashed, killing the pilot in September 1990.

SARGENT - A Cessna 150G crashed in October 2001, killing the pilot, who was trying to land during a thunderstorm.

GOLIAD - One pilot died in April 2004, when his Air Tractor AT-402B struck a power line.

EDNA - In May 2006, a single-engine Aviat A-1B airplane was damaged when it lost control while flying at a low altitude. The pilot and one passenger were killed.

Source: NTSB website

PORT O'CONNOR - Authorities spent most of Sunday searching for two Austin men who crashed a homemade single-engine Lancair aircraft into the Matagorda Bay about 10:30 a.m.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Lynn Lunsford said the Austin-based plane took off from Pierce Field, a private runway on Matagorda Peninsula.

Details of the crash are still under investigation, but Department of Public Safety Trooper Gerald Bryant said locating the men alive in the water is unlikely.

"With the amount of time that's gone by and not hearing from anyone, it appears at this time it will be a fatal plane crash," Bryant said.

Identities of the men have not yet been released, although it is believed the pilot was in his 60s and the passenger was in his 40s.

However, the plane is registered to Lyle D. Koen, an Austin opthomologist, according to the FAA registry.

Shortly after takeoff, the airplane malfunctioned and went down in the water, DPS Trooper Sgt. Cory Ledbetter said.

Also responding to the scene were Texas Parks and Wildlife Game Wardens, Matagorda Sheriff's Office, and U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Corpus Christi and Air Station Port O'Connor.

The Corpus Christi station deployed an HH-65 helicopter to search for the men, and Port O'Connor deployed a 25-foot vessel to search and recover the plane's wreckage from the water.

As of 7:30 p.m. Sunday, the men had not been found at the crash scene, five miles east of Bird Island.

Wreckage from the plane was visible in the bay's 6.8 feet waters, said Thomaston resident Jay Hanslik, who was boating near the crash site Sunday afternoon.

Search crews were able to locate the fuselage and a backpack containing identification, but identities of the men will not be released until the remains are recovered and families are contacted, Bryant and DPS Trooper Ronald Johnson said.

"We were all out there recovering pieces of the wreckage," Johnson said.

Search efforts ended at 7:30 p.m. Sunday and will resume early Monday.

Scroll down for a recap of the live coverage and more photos.

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