CHINCOTEAGUE, Va. — Looking out over the Chincoteague Bay with the marshland covering much of the area, you can imagine how difficult those waters would be to navigate in a moment of emergency response.
That was the case for many first responders when a Navy plane from Naval Station Norfolk crashed in the water off Chincoteague Island on Wednesday night.
A U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson said the crash happened around 7:30 p.m. near the Wildcat Marsh. Leaders with the Navy reported the aircraft is an E-2D Hawkeye based out of the Naval Station Norfolk in which crews were doing a routine flight operation.
Three sailors were on board. One died on the scene, while two others survived and were rescued by Maryland State Police who then transported them to receive medical attention on Wallops Island.
The rescue efforts didn't come short of any volunteers. Multiple volunteer fire and EMS companies joined the journey out onto the water to help the sailors.
"We knew that it was far enough off of the coast that we could not locate it without being on a boat," said Tim Jerscheid, Stockton Volunteer Fire Co. Assistant Chief.
Jerscheid said his team jumped into action when they got a call about a military plane in the water off Chincoteague Island and the volunteers sprung into action. He said it took volunteers and departments from several counties to help save the two sailors.
"The rescue swimmers got on the plane say the tail section had been broken apart and the main part of the plane was still intact," said Jerscheid. "One was flown by MSO Helicopter and one was driven to the hospital by Chincoteague, so absolutely, those guys' lives were saved by the citizens over there."
Denise Bowden with the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Co. said her team of volunteers also responded quickly Wednesday evening. She said she noticed some people who live on the island take their personal boats out on the water to try to help the rescue efforts.
"That north end of the island is pretty tricky to navigate. The locals know it very well. It's shallow water out there, so it's tough to navigate," said Bowden. "I can't say enough about our citizens that actually jumped in with private boats to help out with this effort. It was amazing to see everybody come together for their rescue efforts."
Jerscheid said crews found the person who didn't survive still strapped into the harness on the plane. None of the crew members have been identified at this time.
Leaders with volunteer fire departments on the Eastern Shore said the plane is still stuck in the water.
Officials with Virginia and the Navy now have to find a way to remove it.