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4 killed in Coney Island Plane Crash

May 21, 2005 | AP

Four people were killed Saturday afternoon when a single-engine plane crashed on the beach in Coney Island, hitting the sand as stunned sunbathers looked on, officials said.

The four victims, all on board the Cessna 172S, were dead at the scene following the 1:30 p.m. crash at the popular Brooklyn beach, said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Holly Baker.

Police and fire officials were at the scene, where the shattered white aircraft remained on the beach about halfway between the Atlantic Ocean and the boardwalk.

Eyewitnesses said the plane was circling above Coney Island when its engine suddenly stalled, and the aircraft quickly plunged into the beach.

The pilot tried desperately to right the four-year-old plane after it went into a tailspin, said Herbert Lecler, 51, who was fishing on the beach.

"He couldn't, and he bounced on that beach," said Lecler. Joshua McCabe, a registered nurse visiting from San Diego, was eating inside Nathan's Famous hot dog restaurant when he heard the crash.

McCabe and another witness rushed to the scene, where they found the pilot already dead and a female passenger barely alive.

Within seconds, he said, "she wasn't breathing and then she lost her pulse."

Dick Zigun, a longtime Coney Island resident who was at the crash site, said it looked like the plane had come down nose-first. "The wings are broken off, and the cockpit glass was smashed up," he said. "It didn't look like anyone could survive that."

Zigun, who has lived in Coney Island for 25 years, said it was the first plane crash on the beach that he could recall.

Several sunbathers were on the beach when the plane came down, although the Coney Island crowd was generally sparse, he said.

Police and fire officials moved quickly to close off the beach after the crash. Dozens of people were gathered along the boardwalk staring out at the wreckage, which was in sight of the Wonder Wheel attraction.

There were no reports of any injuries on the ground.

The plane was registered to RJ Ventures LLC of Paramus, N.J. Authorities did not identify any of the victims after the crash.

The crash occurred on a sunny spring day at the world-renowned beach, home to the Cyclone rollercoaster and the Astroland amusement park. The plane hit the beach near West 19th Street, close to KeySpan Park, a minor league baseball stadium.

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