Several witnesses to the plane crash that killed two Ocean City police officers on June 30 reported seeing the aircraft spiraling toward the ocean intact, then hitting the water in a "belly flop," according to an initial report on the crash released by federal investigators.
"Most described the airplane as it descended in a steady-state, nose down spin," the report by the National Transportation Safety Board found.
The crash killed the pilot and owner of the plane, Thomas J. Geoghegan Jr., 43, of Ocean City, and Joshua D. Adickes, 27, of Berlin. The report found Geoghegan had piloted the flight as a "local pleasure/orientation flight" for Adickes. They were not on police duty.
Their bodies were recovered July 1.
One man who said he was familiar with the plane and had seen it flying above the town many times told investigators that he saw it do a loop and then a barrel roll before flying off about 15 minutes before the crash. Just before the crash, he saw the plane in "a spiraling descent" much closer to the shore than he'd ever seen it before.
"He has never been that low, or that close to the shore," the man told investigators.
The man said the plane "pancaked" into the ocean, like "your hand slapping against the water," according to the report.
The report is preliminary, the NTSB said, and the incident will continue to be investigated. A cockpit video camera was recovered from the plane's wreckage, found about 30 feet below the surface and a quarter-mile from the beach; it will be reviewed.
Divers found and recovered most of the plane on July 4. It was found on the ocean floor "fractured in several places due to impact," the report said.
Geoghegan had a private pilot's certificate and had hundreds of hours of flight experience, the report found. No flight plan was filed for the June 30 flight.