CRESCENT CITY, Fla. – Two men were found dead Tuesday night after a small plane crashed into the St. Johns River in southern Putnam County, according to the Sheriff's Office.
The Florida Highway Patrol identified the two as Michael Martin, of Georgetown, Florida, and 56-year-old Patrick Magie, of Cordova, Alaska.
The Putnam County Sheriff's Office marine unit responded to assist in the search and found one of the men dead. A second body was found hours later, just before midnight, by sheriff's deputies.
Troopers said that the body of the second victim was recovered as part of the National Transportation Safety Board's salvage operation Wednesday afternoon.
The single-engine 2016 Quest Kodiak 100 aircraft, which seats up to 10 people, crashed about 7:30 p.m. near Fort Gates Ferry Road in Crescent City -- less than 2 miles west of Mt. Royal Airport, a private runway.
“We can see through sonar images that the debris field is quite big, and the plane is heavily damaged and broken apart,” said Putnam County Chief Deputy Col. Joseph Wells.
A neighbor of the pilot said that he had recently sold a business and began living in the area full time, after being a part-time resident until about a year ago.
"Just a nice guy once you get to know him. We're going to miss him. We had some good times together," said Bud Gregory, who lives in the Mount Royal Airpark."To see things work out like this, you just never know."
Gregory said that the pilot had several planes.
Troopers told News4Jax that the privately owned plane was upside-down in the river and, according to Wells, the only part of the aircraft that was visible was the tail section.
"This is a sophisticated airplane. It’s a $3 million jet prop that is purpose-built for rough country operations, which is similar to the Cessna Caravan," aviation expert Ed Booth said. "The fact this happened at night, this is a very challenging area to fly over due to the darkness."
News4Jax Sports Director Sam Kouvaris, who's a Federal Aviation Administration-certified pilot, said it's not unusual for a light aircraft that has fixed landing gear to overturn in the water.
"As soon as the landing gear touches the water, it flips upside down," Kouvaris said, adding that there's primarily two causes of small plane crashes -- either pilot error or a mechanical issue.
Wells said boats from the sheriff's office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission would be on the water until the aircraft was removed.
The National Transportation Safety Board was expected to take over the investigation.
"The FAA will release the aircraft registration after that," a statement from FAA said. "The FAA will investigate and the NTSB will determine the probable cause of the accident.”
Local pilots, like Michael Anthony, said the crash is devastating news to the community.
“I’m terribly sorry and sad, being a pilot, and know what that’s like. It’s a terrible thing to crash in an airplane," Anthony said. "That definitely affects me. It’s devastating for the community. To have a pilot pass in an accident like that. Flying is the safest form of transportation we have, so it’s a sad day."
The Putnam County Sheriff's Office reports that in 2004 a pilot was also killed when his plane crashed in the waters near Crescent City.