Off Martha’s Vineyard – May 23, 1986

Off Martha’s Vineyard – May 23, 1986

Updated March 16, 2019.

     At 2:00 p.m. on May 23, 1986, a blue and white Bell 206-Jetranger helicopter with three men aboard took off from Westchester County, New York, bound for Cape Cod.  All three men were in their 20s.  One was from Stamford, Connecticut, another from Nantucket, Massachusetts, and the third from New York City.  

     When the men weren’t heard from the helicopter was declared “missing” and a search was begun.   Authorities learned that the pilot hadn’t field a flight plan, so it was unclear where the helicopter was going.  Possible destinations included Nantucket, Atlantic City, New Jersey, and Stratton, Vermont.  The search area included thousands of square miles of forested land,  rolling hills and mountains, and open water.  Coast Guard vessels, Air Force planes, and the Civil Air Patrol were brought in to assist.   

     On May 28th a Civil Air Patrol pilot thought he’d spotted wreckage in the woods of Bristol, Connecticut, but the debris turned out to be a garbage dump site.

     On May 30th the search centered on a swampy area in Southern Rhode Island after an oil slick was spotted from the air, but after a three day search nothing was found.

     On June 6 the Civil Air Patrol announced it was ending its search for the helicopter.

     On June 13, partial wreckage of the helicopter was recovered by a fishing vessel off Martha’s Vineyard.  Additional pieces were later recovered by another fishing boat several miles from where the first pieces were found.  The debris were turned over to the FAA, which later confirmed they were from the missing helicopter.        

     On July 13, 1986, it was confirmed that the missing helicopter had been located in 150 feet of water ten miles east of Noman’s Land.  The find was made by a private company from Marion, Massachusetts.   


     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Region Scoured For Copter Missing With Three Aboard”, May 28, 1986, page C19.   

    Westerly Sun, “Third Day Of Search Continues”, May 28, 1986, page 23.

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Search Halted For Missing Helicopter And 3 Men Aboard”, May 29, 1986

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Search For helicopter To Be Renewed Today In The Westerly Area”, May 31, 1986, page B-22.  

     Westerly Sun, “Search Efforts For Missing Copter Focus On Aguntaug Swamp Area”, June 1, 1986, page 1.

     Westerly Sun, “Search For Helicopter Continues”, June 2, 1986, page 8

     Westerly Sun, “Oil Found In Water Off Weekapaug May Be Clue In Search For Missing Helicopter”, June 3, 1986, page 6

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Town Police Continue To Search For 3 Aboard Downed Helicopter”, June 3, 1986, page D3.  

     Westerly Sun, “Helicopter Search Called Off”, June 4, 1986

     Westerly Sun, “CAP Ends Search For Missing Men”, June 6, 1986, page 14.

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Wreckage Of Missing Helicopter Believed Found Off The Vineyard”, June 13, 1986, page C4

     Westerly Sun, “Debris Believed From Missing helicopter”, June 22, 1986, page 8.  

     Westerly Sun, (R.I.), “Helicopter Wreckage Is Found”, July 13, 1986, page 1.


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