Plane crash in South River kills 1

Victim's brother hurt as experimental craft goes down near Mayo

April 23, 1999|By TaNoah Morgan and Devon Spurgeon | TaNoah Morgan and Devon Spurgeon,SUN STAFF

A Florida man was killed and his brother from Severna Park critically injured yesterday when their experimental seaplane crashed into the South River near Mayo.

Richard McIntire, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, said John R. Sellors Jr., 74, of Sarasota, Fla., the passenger, was killed in the crash.

Sellors' brother, James H. Sellors, 70, of Severna Park was the pilot, McIntire said.

The spokesman said John Sellors was in town for a reunion at the Johns Hopkins University.

John Sellors was pronounced dead at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, and his brother was in critical condition at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he was flown by MedEvac helicopter, McIntire said.

James Sellors was at the controls of the amphibious two-seater he had built himself, said McIntire.

Witnesses said the pilot was trying to land in Selby Bay about 1 p.m. when the plane went nose first into the 50-degree water, then flipped nose to end and came to rest with the tail sticking out of the water.

Mark Ward, a Washington lobbyist, had slipped out of the office to work on his boat, My Prerogative, at the Selby Bay Yacht Basin where he saw the plane crash.

"We had seen the plane take off, and it is a neat thing to watch," Ward said. "I told my mom to watch it land, and then the tail came over the front and it crashed."

The water is about 10 feet deep in the area where the pilot was trying to land, McIntire said.

A witness called 911 shortly after the crash.

Ward said he tried to call the marina manager to seek help, but no one responded.

He threw the lines off his boat and rushed out to the sinking seaplane, he said. On the way, he called the Coast Guard.

When Ward arrived at the wreckage, about 1,000 feet away, both men were in the water, he said.

One was floating face down, and the other was bleeding from the head, Ward said.

"That one guy, he just looked up, and he said, `Help me, help me,' " said Kay Ward, Mark's mother.

Mark Ward said he threw the man a life preserver, but the man couldn't hold on to it.

Next, he said, he threw the man a rope and told him to raise his brother's head from the water, but the man said he couldn't, then passed out.

"I jumped in and got their heads up, and I thought, `Now what?' " Ward said.

Just then, the marina manager and another employee arrived in a johnboat. They pulled the men onto the boat and took them ashore.

About 30 people from Anne Arundel County police and fire departments, the Department of Natural Resources, the Coast Guard and the Federal Aviation Administration arrived at the marina during the afternoon.

Tim Mikules, a spokesman for Anne Arundel County EMS/Fire/Rescue, said the response teams combed the water in eight boats for debris and to check for oil spills.

"There's no environmental hazard," Mikules said. "But the Coast Guard is standing by right now in case it becomes a problem."

Coast Guardsmen surrounded the site yesterday afternoon looking for a sheen on the water that would indicate a gasoline spill.

An officer said he expected oil and gasoline to appear when the plane moves.

"We'll boom it off and contain the area," said Boatswain's Mate Brian Cigich.

Rick Lee, an FAA aviation safety inspector based in Glen Burnie, said the plane was constructed from a kit, and all such planes must be inspected by a certified mechanic or repairman before they are allowed to fly.

He said residents should not worry about such aircraft crashing in their neighborhoods.

"They're more likely to have a car come through their house than a plane land on it," he said.

The FAA investigation will likely take about three weeks, Lee said.

Witnesses at the Anchor Yacht Basin, farther down Selby Bay where the seaplane had been tied down, said signs of trouble were apparent from the start.

"They took it out on the water and spun it around and came back," said Jeff Whetzel, who works at the basin. "The way the motor was running, it just didn't sound good."

Sun staff writers Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan and Richard Irwin contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 4/23/99

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