Rare WWII Wreck Found Off Florida Coast

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A group of divers accidentally found the mostly intact wreckage of a World War II-era aircraft lying upside down on the sandy sea bottom off Jupiter, Fla., late last month. The airplane has been tentatively identified as a relatively rare Curtiss Helldiver SB2C. "There is only one left in the world that flies," said Randy Jordan, the dive-boat operator who found the wreck, which appears on video to be in nearly intact condition. "Nobody knew it was there, we just stumbled upon it," he told the local CBS12 news. "It's like finding a treasure."

The airplane is lying upside down in about 200 feet of water, deeper than recreational divers normally go. Jordan told ABC News that on the day he discovered the wreck, he was with a group of highly trained "technical divers," who are qualified to explore at such depths. The aircraft probably flew in 1943 or 1944 from a Florida flight school. It's not known if the crew escaped, and divers have been unable to see into the cockpit, which is buried in the sand. The landing gear is retracted and the propeller blades are bent, according to the Palm Beach Post. The wreck is the property of the Navy and divers are not allowed to disturb it. It hasn't been determined if the airplane might have had live ammunition on board, which could still be dangerous. Aviation museums in Daytona Beach and Key Largo have expressed interest in recovering and restoring the airplane, according to Jordan. However, if the Navy finds that the aircraft wreck is a gravesite, he said, they may choose to leave it in place. Another Helldiver was found off the coast of San Diego in 2009 and was successfully recovered in August 2010 by the Navy. Another wreck was found in Oregon woods in March 2010.