By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Researchers from the U.S. Navy have started to explore a rare Curtiss SB2C Helldiver wreck from the 1940s that was found in December off the Florida coast. "I really feel like, finally, we're going to find out who belonged to that airplane and if somebody is in it," said diver Randy Jordan, who discovered the wreck, to the local KPLC News. "I was starting to lose hope we were going to find out too much about it. It's in 185 feet of water." A data plate was recovered from the airplane's tail on Thursday, which may lead to a positive identification of the aircraft and help to uncover details about the final flight and the fate of the crew.
The team of Navy divers and a support ship arrived at the site, about four miles off the coast of Jupiter, a couple of weeks ago, along with archeologist Heather Brown. "We're here to preserve the history and heritage of the Navy," Brown said. "This is one of the planes that helped fight World War II." The divers are working to measure and map the wreck site, but they won't recover the wreck, which is heavily corroded. They found parts of the vertical stabilizer, ailerons, flaps, and elevators, which had initially appeared to be missing. They also found some rope tangled in the propeller and part of a lobster trap nearby, which suggests the wreck may have been snagged by a fishing boat. The recovered data plate, which is badly corroded, has been sent to an archeology lab in Washington, D.C., for examination.