Two Suffolk County men waded safely ashore Saturday after their small plane developed engine trouble and plunged into shallow water in the Great South Bay, about 30 feet offshore, officials said.
"There was this plane coming, going from east to west," said Phil Linker, 67, of Bayport, who was reading in his den shortly before 1 p.m. when the plane crashed nearby. "I thought to myself, 'That plane is in trouble.' "
The fixed-wing, single-engine plane - a 1946 Stinson Voyager - took off from the Bayport Aerodrome, a grass field less than a mile north of the shore, at 12:55 p.m. and quickly had engine trouble, said Suffolk County Police Officer David Preller. Pilot Robert Olson, 60, then looked along the shore for a place to put down, he said.
Linker said the pilot speculated that the fuel line was frozen and told him: "I know I was having a problem. That's why I was so low, and then it just quit."
Olson, of West Islip, sustained minor cuts and abrasions, and passenger Joe Scioscia, 70, of Moriches, had a shoulder injury, Preller said. They were taken to Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in stable condition. They declined to comment.
The plane was pulled from the water off Seaman Avenue later in the day and put in a backyard facing the beach.
Linker said he heard "a very loud airplane engine," looked out his window and saw the small plane flying below the top of his 40-foot backyard flagpole.
"Next thing I knew, the engine quit and it hit the water and it turned right over, upside down," Linker said.
He said he called 911 and ran next door to get neighbor Vincent Campasano, 35, an emergency room doctor at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
The men ran to shore and were untying a buoy when they realized two men from the plane were wading ashore.
"They were soaking wet and cold, but OK, maybe early stages of hypothermia," Campasano said.
They put the two men in Linker's backyard beach house until crews from the Community Ambulance Company and the Bayport Fire Department arrived minutes later.
"I knew he recently put an engine in it," Ross said of Olson's plane. "He had it rebuilt."
More than five years ago, a small plane crashed into a Bayport home northeast of where the plane crashed Saturday.
In that incident, on Sept. 22, 2004, a World War II training plane crashed into a home on Bayport Avenue after taking off from the Bayport Aerodrome. That pilot also walked away with minor injuries.