By Carrie Wells and Justin George
The Baltimore Sun
OCEAN CITY, Md. — Two Ocean City police officers died after their small plane spiraled out of control and crashed into the water off 130th Street as weekend beachgoers and people cruising on a large speedboat watched, authorities said Monday.
Thomas J. Geoghegan Jr., 43, of Ocean City and Joshua D. Adickes, 27, of Berlin were identified as the victims in Sunday's crash, which is being investigated by federal authorities.
"Everybody has a really somber feeling about what's happened," Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said. "They were both recognized as good guys, were very popular in the Police Department, were excellent police officers. It's just a real tragedy for their families and for our community."
Police officials said Geoghegan, the owner of the Nanchang CJ-6A plane, was an avid recreational aviator who often took his fellow officers on plane rides. Meehan said the men were friends.
Geoghegan owned the plane and was piloting with Adickes seated behind him when they took off from the Ocean City Municipal Airport between 3:30 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. Sunday. Their destination was not listed in the airport's records.
Graham Bostic, captain of the Sea Rocket speedboat, was taking about 70 people out on the water for a cruise when the plane began falling from the sky. At first, Bostic thought the plane was performing a stunt.
"It was just surreal," he said.
Bostic, who served in the Coast Guard, said he drove the speedboat to the scene of the crash, but the plane, which landed on its belly, had already sunk. "We were ready to effect a rescue if anybody popped up, but no one did."
Bostic said he kept the Sea Rocket on the spot for a half-hour to mark it while waiting for the Coast Guard to arrive.
"Yeah, it was tough" to witness, Bostic said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families."
Divers worked in choppy conditions with little visibility Sunday, and the search was called off after dark at 9 p.m. The search resumed about 9 a.m. Monday, and the bodies of Geoghegan and Adickes were recovered in the afternoon.
The plane was located about 30 feet below the surface about a quarter-mile off the beach, state police said.
State police spokesman Greg Shipley said no other victims were involved in the crash, but divers are continuing to work to recover the aircraft. Those operations had to be suspended about 1:15 p.m. Monday because of dangerous conditions caused by an approaching storm.
The Police Department said in a statement that the officers "exemplified the finest character and their passing is a tremendous loss to the Ocean City Police Department family."
"Both officers were dedicated and courageous both on and off duty," department officials said in the statement. "They had a true love of life, which they demonstrated in their professional and personal pursuits."
The department described Adickes as "fun-loving, charismatic and liked by all who knew him." Originally from Long Valley, N.J., he began as a seasonal officer with the department in 2011 and was hired full time in 2012.
Geoghegan, originally from Annapolis, loved flying and taking his friends out flying, the department said. A seasonal officer who began in 1991, Geoghegan served several summers in the undercover narcotics division.
Both officers were most recently assigned to the same evening patrol shift.
Relatives of Geoghegan and Adickes could not be reached for comment.
Meehan said the families of the officers came to the beach Monday and waited for the bodies to be recovered. He said the department, with only about 100 members, was tight-knit.
"Of course they were in shock and distraught," Meehan said of the families. Fellow officers "have really rallied around the families and tried to provide as much comfort as they can at this time."
The bodies of the officers will be sent the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore for autopsies.
Flight instructor Brian Seeba, who is based at the Ocean City airport, said generally, Nanchang CJ-6A models are built overseas and used for flight instruction and enjoyment -- not for trips of any distances.
The crash was one of a few single-engine plane crashes that have taken place in June, according to reports. On Saturday, two people walked away unharmed from a crash in Tulsa, Okla., when the plane's landing gear didn't lock in place on approach. On June 23, two people died in a crash near the Boulder City Airport in Nevada.
National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration officials will investigate the cause of the crash.
"It's a terrible accident," said Town Councilman Brent Ashley. "Everybody is devastated over this."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2013 The Baltimore Sun