Block Island Sound – November 28, 1989

Block Island Sound – November 28, 1989

     On the night of November 28, 1989, a New England Airlines twin-engine, Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander aircraft, (N127JL), left Block Island Airport with a pilot, seven passengers, and two dogs aboard bound for Westerly Airport in Westerly, R. I.   The night was dark and moonless, and the aircraft would be flying beneath a layer of cloud cover.  

     The flight left Block Island around 6:20 p.m. but never made it to Westerly.  The 17 mile flight was expected to take about 15 minutes.  When it failed to arrive it was declared “missing” and a search and rescue operation was instituted.  Coast Guard boats and military aircraft from southern New England converged on the area between Block island and the main land, and ground crews searched the shoreline.  Private fishing boats and aircraft also joined the search. 

     By the following day several items believed to have come from the missing plane were found washed up on Block Island beaches.  More debris was found over the next few hours, and the bodies of the two dogs aboard were recovered by the Coast Guard. Indications were that the plane had broken apart on impact.   

     A few days later a Rhode Island fishing boat hauled up aircraft debris in a net and notified authorities.   Underwater sonar located three major portions of the aircraft’s wreckage on the ocean floor in 110 feet of water about 4 miles northwest of Block Island.  The wreckage was examined using remote-controlled underwater cameras.  Portions of the wreckage were recovered and brought to Quonset Point for examination. 

     By April, the remains of five of the eight people aboard the aircraft had been recovered.  Two months later a six was discovered by a fishing boat.  Two of the passengers were never found.      

     The cause of the crash was undetermined.      


     Providence Journal, “Plane, 8 Aboard, Lost Off Westerly, Coast Guard”, November 29, 1989, page A-1  

     Providence Journal, “Block Islanders Stalk Beaches, Stunned By Another Tragedy”, November 29, 1989, page A-1

     Providence Journal, “Debris, Bodies Of Dogs On Downed Plane Found”, November 29, 1989, page A-1

     Providence Journal, “Search Ends For Missing Plane, No Hope Seen”, November 30, 1989, page A-1

     Providence Journal, “Camera Probes Debris Of Plane On Ocean Floor”, December 20, 1989, page C-5

     Providence Journal, “Crews To Raise More Debris From Block Island Plane”, January 3, 1990, page B-4  

     Providence Journal, “Bodies From Block I. Plane Crash Are Found”, February 16, 1990, page C-5

     Providence Journal, “Search For Block I. Plane, 3 Victims Called Off”, May 8, 1990, page A-3

     Providence Journal, “No Mechanical Failure In Block I. Plane Crash”, March 26, 1991, page A-1

     Aviation Safety Network



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