The bodies of two men were recovered after a helicopter crashed into the Chesapeake Bay, near Bloody Point on the Eastern Shore, after noon Saturday, the Maryland Natural Resources Police said in a statement Sunday morning.
Police identified the victims as the pilot, Charles Knight, 38, of Mount Airy, and the passenger, Matt Clarke, 36 of Pasadena. They said the wreckage was found in 55 feet of water about 6 p.m. Saturday and that Natural Resources Police investigators are working with the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration investigators to recover the wreckage. Police said autopsies will be conducted.
Knight’s family could not be reached Sunday morning; a relative of Clarke’s declined to comment.
Capt. Brian Albert said Saturday that officers responded about 12:30 p.m. to a downed helicopter just south of the lighthouse and Maryland Natural Resources Police were first on the scene.
It was a two-seater helicopter, Albert said.
Bloody Point is off Kent Island, near the Bay Bridge. Nicknamed “The Hole,” Bloody Point is the deepest part of the bay at 174 feet deep.
The Anne Arundel County Fire Department sent considerable resources to assist neighboring Queen Anne’s County emergency responders, Capt. Russ Davies said. The helicopter went down about ¾ of a mile out into the water, he said.
The department sent several boats, a dive team and its Canteen Unit, which provides water and food to emergency responders, to Kent Island in support of a host of Queen Anne’s County fire companies, Davies said.
The U.S. Coast Guard launched two boats to search for the two men. Other agencies responding also include the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Talbot County Fire Department.
The Coast Guard reported winds of five to 10 knots, one-foot seas and a water temperature of 62 degrees.
The helicopter, which was not a military craft, had taken off from Tipton Airport near Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County, said Scott Wheatley of the Queen Anne’s Department of Emergency Services.
Trevor Hardman, a Prince George’s County firefighter, was fishing for rockfish with his 15-year-old son and his friend when he heard a “frantic” distress call over marine VHF radio.
“Another boat said they witnessed a helicopter crash in front of them near Bloody Point,” Hardman said. “I was about a mile away, so I turned around and rushed to Bloody Point.”
Hardman said it was just after noon and the heavy fog in the area had just begun to lift.
At the time, he said there were several other boaters trying to convey latitude and longitude coordinates to rescue authorities to help them find the site of the impact.
Hardman readied lifejackets to pull people out of the water, but when he arrived, he said, “there was nothing but pieces everywhere and jet fuel.”
Hardman pulled a flight bag out of the water that contained a flight log and a maintenance record, he said.
He said the helicopter was a Cabri G2, per the records he found. He handed the records over to the U.S. Coast Guard.
A Coast Guard spokesperson confirmed the type of helicopter and said all materials handed over to the Coast Guard were then transferred to Maryland Natural Resources Police.
An employee at Kent Point Marina said she heard the helicopter circling over a nearby farm shortly after noon.
“Then it went over the marina and it was gone,” said Brandi Colbert, who works in the marina’s bait house.
Coast Guard officials ask that if anyone saw anything in the vicinity south of Kent Island, that they contact the Sector Maryland-National Capital Region at 410-576-2525 or on VHF-FM Channel 16.