One woman survives after nine hours at sea – Captain Hodge and three others perish in St. Thomas plane crash

POSTED: 10/15/12 4:15 PM

ST. THOMAS – A massive rescue effort by the United States Coast Guard in Puerto Rico to find survivors of a plane crash that occurred early Saturday morning near St. Croix yielded no success on Saturday and Sunday. The plane piloted by Kirby Hodge from Island Harbour in Anguilla. He was the owner of Rainbow International Airlines, a company that provides air lift for small islands in the region.

On his last trip, Hodge departed from St. Croix’s Henry E. Rohlson Airport where he had delivered newspaper and picked up some passenger for the flight towards the Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas. The plane carried two women, two men and a child as passenger.

Only one woman, identified as Valerie Jackson, survived the crash that is believed to have happened around 5 a.m. on Saturday. The Coast Guard received a report about the missing plane almost three hours later, at 7.50 a.m., when the craft failed to show up on time in St. Thomas.

Jackson was found nine hours after the crash. After the Coast Guard spotted her at sea, a boat of the Planning and Natural Resources Department of St. Thomas picked her up.

Jackson told the Coast Guard that all passengers and the pilot had left the plane alive but that they had been separated due to the bad weather conditions and the accompanying high waves. The child Jackson was traveling with has not been found. The sole survivor was transferred to waiting emergency medical service staff and taken to St. Thomas for treatment.

Captain Hodge was flying a twin engine Piper Aztec. According to records with the United States Federal Aviation Administration the plane’s certification status had been terminated.

Virgin Island based aircraft and the C-130 Hurricane Hunter aircraft that was in the region to monitor tropical storm Rafael reported debris at sea off of Sail Rock, about three miles of the southwest coast of St. Thomas.

A helicopter, a plane and several boats searched a six nautical mile area for other survivors but to no avail.

It is possible that the crash was caused by a field of debris surrounding tropical storm Rafael.

Relatives of the people aboard the plane were upset with the contradictory information authorities initially gave. The control tower at Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten said on Saturday afternoon that all passengers had been found floating on a raft while the pilot was swimming to a nearby key. The control tower in Martinique gave the same information.

By Saturday evening however it was clear that the crash had had dramatic consequences for five of the six people on board/.

The accident with the Piper Aztec comes a week after another aircraft crashed on the V.C. bird International Airport in Antigua killing all three people on board.

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Comments (1)


  1. Jamie says:

    I would first like to say that good effort on trying to report good news but you information is so wrong. First of all there were only four people including Kirby on the plane that Kirby was flying. Secondly, a child was not on board. Thirdly he was transporting newspapers from St.Croix to St. Thomas.
    Concerning, the accident in Antigua, there were FOUR people on board and ONE survived. Check your facts before you share WRONG information.

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