Mystery of downed WW II-era plane partially solved

By Kevin D. Thompson - Palm Beach Post

The mystery surrounding a downed World War II-era plane found at the bottom of the ocean has been partially solved.

The aircraft, upside down and mostly intact, is indeed a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver as originally suspected, said Randy Jordan, the diver who discovered the plane Tuesday while diving at a depth of about 185 feet four miles off Jupiter.

Jordan, owner of Emerald Charters, a Jupiter scuba diving company, said a cloth-like covering was found, the same kind of material that was used to cover the wings on a Curtiss Helldiver, a Navy dive bomber.

He said the shape of the propellers and tail hook were also enough clues to positively identify the plane.

"It's just more confirmation that this plane is a Curtiss Helldiver," Jordan said.

But it's still not known who was on the plane or how it crashed into the murky ocean depths.

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington, D.C., there were three crashes off the coast of Florida in Sept. 1944 in which the planes were either lost at sea or missing. The planes were engaged in training flights and the accidents weren't because of enemy action, the Command said.

In an email sent to Jordan on Thursday by Robert S. Neyland, head of the underwater archaeology branch for the Naval History and Heritage Command, Jordan was instructed not to disturb the crash site or remove marine growth or sediment from the wreck.

"Any disturbance to a sunken Navy ship or aircraft wreck requires a permit under the Sunken Military Craft Act of 2004," Neyland wrote.

Jordan, however, said he was still allowed to dive and inspect the site.

"This is not for recreational divers," he said.