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HomeNewsArchivesHuman Remains, Wreckage of St. Croix Dentist's Plane Found on Vieques

Human Remains, Wreckage of St. Croix Dentist's Plane Found on Vieques

April 22, 2008 — More than four years after St. Croix dentist and oral surgeon Dr. Sheldon Prudoff and his small Aero Commander 112 airplane mysteriously disappeared on a flight from Puerto Rico to St. Croix, the plane and human remains were discovered Thursday on Vieques.
The tail numbers on the wreckage match that of Prudoff's plane, said Todd Gunther, the National Transportation Safety Board investigator in charge. Gunther was on Vieques when he returned a phone call.
He couldn't confirm that the remains were Prudoff's.
The wreckage and remains were found in a low-lying area of Vieques by U.S. Navy contractors surveying the area which, until the Navy left in 2003, served as a bombing range.
"It was inside what was left of the range," Gunther said Tuesday.
Gunther described the area as filled with mangroves and mesquite, as well as live bombs.
Prudoff's plane disappeared Feb. 15, 2004. The NTSB wrapped up its initial investigation Tuesday.
"There is no sign of an inflight breakup or inflight fire," Gunther said.
However, the Ashburn, Va.-based Gunther said the NTSB will now evaluate the mechanical condition of the airplane, including the engine and control system. The NTSB will also evaluate whether anything happened to the pilot that could have caused the accident.
A preliminary report will be issued in a week to nine days, but it will take up to nine months for the NTSB to complete the investigation, Gunther said.
No one could be reached at the Prudoff home on St. Croix.
According to a report on the NTSB's website, as the airplane proceeded southeast toward St. Croix it began a descent over open ocean water. As the airplane descended to about 1,000 feet, the airport traffic controller said, radar contact was lost, and repeated attempts to contact the airplane were unsuccessful. The airplane failed to arrive at the Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix, and was not located at any airport.
Radar data indicated a "target" departed from San Juan, then headed eastbound along the northern shoreline, according to the report. The "target" then turned southeast toward the island of Vieques at 3,500 feet. As it progressed eastbound along the northern shoreline of Vieques Island, it turned right and began a rapid descent, consistent with an uncontrolled, spiral descent.
The NTSB further reported that on Feb. 26, 2004, a witness aboard a boat contacted the Flight Standards District Office of the Federal Aviation Administration in San Juan, and reported that on Feb. 15 he witnessed a red light falling at a high rate of speed near Vieques Island, which coincided with the NTSB radar track. The boater was unaware that Prudoff's plane was missing until he returned to San Juan.
When Prudoff disappeared, the U.S. Coast Guard used helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and a cutter to search a 440-square-mile area for his plane.
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