ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY - Two people were killed Friday night when a small plane crashed in Cape May County while performing aerobatic stunts.
The pilot, who left the nearby Woodbine airport, was performing stunts in the Harmon Rocket acrobatic plane at about 7:45 p.m., lost control, and crashed near the intersection of Routes 550 and 605, said State Police spokesman Sgt. Julian Castellanos.
The two on board, according to Castellanos, were Dennis McGurk Jr., 37, and his 34-year-old wife Oksana McGurk, both of Mays Landing. A search of the plane’s tail number on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Web site also shows it was registered in 2007 to Dennis McGurk, an Atlantic City police officer. The McGurks often flew together, Atlantic City police officers told The Press.
“Everything my son did was adventurous,” Dorothy McGurk told the Newark Star-Ledger about her son, an Atlantic City police officer. “He was quite a guy. I can’t stop crying about it,” she said.
Police are investigating the possibility that a second plane was involved in the crash, Castellanos said.
A heap of crumpled metal lying on Route 605 in front of the Belleplain fire station was all that remained of the plane Friday night.
Neighbors said the crash sounded like a bomb exploding, and several said the impact shook their houses.
The plane downed several electrical wires as it crashed, and the entire area was without electricity. Several neighbors said they expected they would not see power restored until morning.
Arletta Creamer, who lives about a quarter-mile from the crash site, said she and her family were sitting on their porch, and her year-and-a-half-old granddaughter, Kendall, noticed the plane. They took the child out onto the lawn to give her a better look at the aircraft.
Creamer said she saw the plane spiraling towards the ground. At first, she thought it was an aerobatic stunt.
“But then the engine went off and didn’t come back on . He kept spiraling down. He never recovered the plane,” Creamer said. “There was a big ball of fire, and obviously, a horrible sound.
“It sounded like a bomb went off,” said her mother, Gladys Chandler.
Creamer said her daughter-in-law grabbed the baby and ran, because “we thought it was crashing right in our backyard.”
Former Dennis Township Mayor Georgeann Pettit, who lives a few doors down from the crash site, said she was sitting on her back porch when she heard the plane lose its engine. At first, she thought it would recover.
“Then I heard a crash, and said ‘Oh my God, a plane crashed in the middle of the street,’” Pettit said. She ran to call 911.
“Thank God for the fire company. They were there within a minute to put the hose on it,” Pettit said.
Pettit said she saw one person, who was obviously deceased.
“It’s just a tragic loss of life,” Pettit said, and added she is praying for any victims and their families.
Dave Weygand, who lives about a block away, said he heard the crash and arrived to see the plane on fire.
“You couldn’t even tell it was an airplane, but you could see the prop,” Weygand said.
“I just heard the crash and our house shook,” said his wife, Carol. “I thought something ran into our house.”
Route 605 was closed to traffic well into the night as investigators preserved the scene.
Firefighters from Belleplain, Woodbine, Ocean view, Dennisville and Tuckahoe responded to assist at the scene, along with the Belleplain Rescue Squad.
The crash is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and the state Department of Transportation’s Division of Aeronautics, Castellanos said.