Delay in plane crash search?

<div class="meta image-caption"><div class="origin-logo origin-image none"><span>none</span></div><span class="caption-text"> A couple says New Jersey State Police ignored them when they reported a small plane crash in Eagleswood Township earlier this month. (Chopper 6)</span></div>
May 28, 2008 8:13:32 AM PDT
The search for a small plane that crashed this month in Ocean County got off to a slow start because authorities were not sure whether to believe a report that a plane was seen going down.

It was not until some three hours after the initial report of trouble that the plane was found in Eagleswood Township. Two of the people on board were killed; the other two were seriously injured.

Those killed were Stephen Claussen, a mammal expert who was known for training Keiko, the whale star of the movie "Free Willy" before he was set free.

Plane owner John Ambroult of Eastham, Massachusetts, was also killed. Two other marine mammal experts, 28-year-old Jacalyn Toth Brown of Pemberton and 43-year-old Juan Carlos Salinas of Mexico City survived, but were badly injured.

Dan and Amy Martelli told The Press of Atlantic City for Wednesday's newspapers that they saw the plane decline behind the trees in their backyard around 1 p.m. on May 17.

She said she drove to little Eagles Nest Airport near their home to see if the plane had landed. But it wasn't there.

She says she called 911 to report a crash, but was not taken seriously. After that, she says, she, her husband, and their 8-year-old son, searched for the plane for a half-hour but did not find it.

State Police told the Asbury Park Press for Saturday's newspapers that they did investigate those initial claims, but that they did not have specific enough information to find the plane.

"At one point, she said she didn't see the plane crash and wasn't sure where it was, or if it had even gone down," State Police Sgt. Stephen Jones said.

Still, he said, three troopers spent about two hours looking for evidence of a crash.

"The troopers would have never given up the search had they believed a plane really crashed."

Finally, around 4 p.m., crash victim Juan Carlos Salinas reached authorities, who began searching.

Amy Martelli says that when rescuers finally showed up, her husband helped them find the wreckage.

Jones said it turned out that the first search by troopers came within about 25 yards of the wreck, but it could not be seen in the dense woods.


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