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A small plane made an emergency crash landing into Setauket Harbor after an engine failure last night.
Austricio Ramirez, 25, was the student pilot flying the four-seat Piper Archer aircraft from Fitchburg, Mass. to the Republic Airport in Farmingdale before he turned the controls over to pilot instructor Nelson Gomez, 36, when the engine started experiencing issues, according to the Suffolk County Police Department.
Gomez made an emergency landing in the harbor at approximately 11:05 p.m.
At least thirty minutes passed between the 911 call and the police response.
Fourteen fire departments, two dive teams and two boats helped execute the rescue.
“You could hear victims calling for help so you had to get out there,” Lt. Michael S. Murphy said.
The emergency response came from both ends of the harbor and initially had issues due to the remote location of the crash.
“It was very hectic getting up there,” Sgt. Paul Mercready. “The helicopters were overhead and identifying people in the water.”
Wady Perez, 25, and Gerson Salmon-Negron, 23, both from Queens, were the two passengers on the plane. All four individuals made it out of the plane, but only three were rescued from the crash. Salmon-Negron is still missing, according to the SCPD.
The officers at the scene commandeered kayaks into the harbor and carried out the rescue mission.
“There wasn’t much to see,” Officer Matthew Merced said. “It was amazingly pitch black.”
Anthony Amato was the first diver on scene who went into the plane to find any remaining passengers. “It was in about six feet of water. I swam and did a visual search,” Amato said. He described the tail to be “sticking out of the water” and the door being “cracked open” for the victims to get out. “The plane sustained minimal damage,” Amato added.
Jeanine Geffe, a lifelong resident of Port Jefferson, knew something was up last night. “We heard sirens and helicopters nearby,” she said. “It was pretty wild.”
Three passengers were taken to Stony Brook University Hospital where they were treated and released.
“Three of the rescued individuals are in stable condition. The fourth individual is still missing,” Timothy D. Sini, Police Commissioner at the Suffolk County Police Department said. “This is an active search mission as we speak.”