NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — The pilot of a plane carrying a banner jumped from his aircraft just before it crashed into the ocean near 43rd Ave. South here Wednesday.
The plane sunk shortly after it crashed into the ocean, and on Thursday officials tried to remove it, but postponed it, said Pat Dowling, North Myrtle Beach spokesman.
"It may be two to three days before the retrieval occurs. Apparently, it will take some time to acquire the equipment and some personnel required to safely and successfully accomplish the retrieval," Dowling said Thursday evening. "The banner plane company will contact the city when its contractor is ready to begin work. The plane is not a threat to boating traffic or to swimmers. Its location is marked and will be monitored."
Kathryn Johnson, on vacation from Dallas, was in the water when she saw the plane losing altitude.
I thought he was going to dip his sign in (the water) because he was getting so close, she said. I saw the pilot jump out just before his plane hit the water.
Johnson said six to 10 people from the crowded beach, followed by about four lifeguards, quickly entered the water in an attempt to aid the pilot, but that he was picked up by a Sea-Doo in the area towing a banana boat and brought to shore.
The pilots name and condition were not immediately known. But beachgoers said he did not appear to be seriously hurt after the crash that happened just before noon Wednesday.
Police and lifeguards kept people out of the water in the area as a North Myrtle Beach rescue boat circled the area in the ocean searching for the plane, which sunk.
Later in the day Wednesday, authorities found the plane and tied a buoy to it, marking its location. A tow company is expected to remove the plane Thursday afternoon.
Authorities plan to keep people out of the water in that area Thursday until the plane is recovered.
An official from the banner plane company, Barnstormers Aerial Advertising, was on the beach Wednesday, but declined to comment about the incident.
Kim Battin was sitting on the beach with her family, who are on vacation from Philadelphia, when she saw the plan start to fly closer to the ocean.
We saw it coming down and then the engine stalled, she said. You could see the propeller stop and just as it hit you could see (the pilots) head popping out of the water.
It was the first such crash Battin has witnesses and she said it has made for a memorable vacation.
I was reading the banner and it sounded like a good show when the plane just went down, Battin said of the banner, which she said was an advertisement for a show by The Temptations and Four Tops at the Alabama Theatre.
More details will be posted as they become available.