AP 02/27 20:42 EST KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) - Treasure salvors have discovered the wreckage of
AP 02/27 20:42 EST
KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) -- Treasure salvors have discovered the wreckage of
a plane they say might be one of five Navy aircraft that disappeared more
than 40 years ago on a routine training flight.
The crew of Mel Fisher's Swordfish pulled a Grumman Avenger airplane from
the 1940s out of mud in water 33 feet deep 20 miles west of Key West on
Tuesday, said Don Kincaid, vice president of Treasure Salvors Inc.
The disappearance of the Navy's Flight 19, consisting of the five TBM-3
Avengers, torpedo-bombers normally based on carriers, and the loss of a
twin-engine Navy Martin Mariner subsequently sent to search for them is
frequently mentioned in the lore of the "Bermuda Triangle."
The Bermuda Triangle, off the southeastern coast of the United States,
was popularized by Charles Berlitz in a best-selling 1974 book of that title
that told of ships and planes vanishing into a mysterious void.
Navy and Coast Guard officials have scoffed at the theory, noting that
some of the world's busiest shipping and flight lanes criss-cross the area
and that over the years accidents are bound to happen.
Key West also is far beyond the westernmost boundary of the legendary
Miami-Bermuda-San Juan triangle.
But Fisher has said he believes the plane could be one of the five.
Salvors "stumbled across" the wreckage in 1971 during a search for a
galleon and were in the vicinity again last week, Kincaid said. "Mel just
wanted to pull it up out of curiosity," he said. "We ran across it again on
a whim. We're not in the business of looking for Bermuda Triangle
The five Avengers left a World War II training field at Fort Lauderdale
on a training mission Dec. 5, 1945, each carring a pilot and radio
The flight leader was soon lost in hazy skies, despite the prevalent
clear and sunny weather. Radio contact was maintained until the planes ran
out of fuel still searching for the way home.
A Martin Mariner, a twin-engine patrol plane with 13 aboard, left the
Banana River Naval Air Station near Cocoa Beach the next morning to search
for the squadron.
The plane failed to return and no trace was ever found. No human remains
was found in the Avenger salvaged this week, according to Fisher's son
When the fuselage was hoisted from the water, an open parachute spilled
out, said Scott Nierling, a Treasure Salvors photographer.
The plane, estimated at 40 feet from tip to tail and with a wingspan
around 60 feet, was brought to Key West for identification. It still bears
the paint of Navy stripes.
Mel Fisher, who was away on vacation Friday, said earlier that he wanted
to put it in the front yard of the Treasure Salvors Museum in Key West.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank