Small plane runs out of fuel, crashes in Brunswick marsh

Pilot called for help before crash; everyone on board reportedly OK

BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Three people are safe after an emergency plane landing Saturday afternoon in Brunswick.

The Piper aircraft went down into a marshy area about 5 miles from the Brunswick/Golden Isles Airport, where the pilot was trying to land.

The pilot radioed in a distress call when he realized he ran out of fuel, Glynn County officials said.

At last check, the plane remained at the scene off Dan Lane near Highway 17. Glynn County Emergency Management said because the plane is in a secluded area, they're going to leave it until the Federal Aviation Administration can complete its investigation.

Glynn County officials provided some drone photos showing the plane in the middle of the marsh. The three people on board had to wait on the wings of the plane until help could arrive.

"Because it was low tide, we weren't able to get a boat out to them,” said Alec Eaton, of Glynn County Emergency Management.

Eaton said it took about an hour to find a way to get the plane’s occupants out of the area safely.

"We notified the Coast Guard and they got a helicopter up for us,” Eaton said.

Photo provided by Glynn County officials
Photo provided by Glynn County officials

Miranda Smith, whose backyard overlooks the landing site, said it would have been hard to try to get to the passengers by land.

"I wouldn't have walked through it,” Smith said. “We have snakes and alligators out here. We have a lot of alligators in this lake.”

She and her husband were home when the emergency landing happened, but she said they didn’t hear any of it.

“I’m like, ‘Why didn't we hear something?’ And he said they ran out of fuel. The pilot did a really good job landing.”

An aviation company at the Brunswick/Golden Isles Airport said the three left Chicago and were originally heading to St. Simons Island.

When they realized they were out of fuel, they rerouted to the airport but didn’t make it. Eaton said it could have been much worse.

“A few weeks ago, we weren't so lucky with an airplane incident,” Eaton said. “This time, we were. They looked like they glided into the marsh in a safe manner and they were able to not have any injuries, which is the important thing.”

The three people were taken to the airport to be checked out. An airport employee said they’re doing OK, and are headed to be with some family in the area.

Earlier reports indicated the three on board were all male: two 17-year-olds and an adult. They were in the marsh area with the aircraft about a quarter-mile off land until just before 6 p.m.

Elena Pipes, who works at Manning Aviation, said she heard the call for help around 3 p.m.

Pipes said she listened to the mayday call from the pilot, who said: "We are going down. We are going down."

About the Authors: