Rescue operations were called off Wednesday evening after teams from various agencies combed the ocean for a pilot whose plane crashed off the coast of Cape May, New Jersey, earlier in the day.
The single engine Mooney M20J aircraft crashed in the water approximately 1,200 feet (365 meters) from the Cape May Lighthouse Wednesday around 11:45 a.m., according to the FAA.
"It sounded like an extra loud explosion," Patty Oat, of Lower Township, told NBC10. "There was a gentleman standing there and he said, 'I saw the whole thing.' He said the plane was skimming the water. And it was bouncing. It hit like a wave, hit the bottom of the plane. It kind of went up and came straight down head first."
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Troopers from the New Jersey State Police Marine Services Bureau later located the aircraft using sonar. It was submerged under 18 feet of water.
The owner of the small plane said the male pilot was a regular customer who flew recreationally.
Lisa Campbell, owner of the plane and operator of Air-Mods Flight Training Center at the Trenton-Robbinsville airport, said the craft departed from the airport, more than 100 miles (161 kilometers) away from the crash site, around 8 a.m.
She said the pilot wasn't one of the banner carriers that are ubiquitous at the shore.
Jennifer Horton told NBC10 she witnessed a small, low-flying plane right off the beach in nearby Wildwood Crest shortly before the crash.
"The way he was flying, it was really erratic," she said. "He was too low, way too low to the water. And the way he was swerving and stuff it just wasn't normal."
Officials said one person was on board. The identity of the pilot has not been confirmed. The NTSB was called to the scene as the investigation continues.