Fishing boat rescues 3 people after plane crashes 20 miles off Bimini

FAA: Plane was heading to Miami Executive Airport when it crashed

By Janine Stanwood - Anchor/Reporter, Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor

MIAMI - U.S. Coast Guard crews based in Miami responded Thursday to a report of plane crash 20 miles east of Bimini.

Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen confirmed the crash involved a Piper PA-34 aircraft, which was seen beneath the ocean's surface.

But help was already on the way.

A group of friends from the Florida Keys on a fishing and diving trip spotted the plane's yellow emergency life raft in the ocean.

"As we got closer, we realized it was a life raft, and we were pretty taken aback," Danny Hampson said.

Hampson's father, Tim, who was manning the 35-foot Contender center console, said they steered the boat closer to the raft to make contact with the three men sitting on it.

"It was crazy. We asked what happened and they said, 'Our plane just crashed,'" Tim Hampson said.

The Hampsons -- along with Mark Wheaton, Rick Suarez, Steve Oropeza and Allen Wood -- helped the three men aboard and gave them water.

They said the men told them they were from Miami and had been sitting on that raft for more than an hour.

"They were all kind of in shock. There were no bad injuries, thank god," Tim Hampson said. "They said the plane sunk in about a minute's time."

Officials said the three survivors were transferred to Bahamian authorities in Cat Cay.

According to Bergen, the small plane had departed from Great Harbour Cay Airport in The Bahamas and was flying to Miami Executive Airport when it crashed.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

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