JUPITER, FLA. - Scuba divers off the coast of Palm Beach County have received national attention after the discovery they made last week. The group found the remains of what is believed to be a World War II era military aircraft.
The scuba divers chose a random place to jump into the water about four miles east of the Jupiter Inlet. Nearly 200 feet below the surface, Emerald Charters owner Randy Jordan and his fellow divers stumbled upon the airplane.
"When you backed up, you go, 'That's an airplane!'" said Jordan.
The airplane is believed to date back to the early 1940s, to World War II. Local military aircraft enthusiasts said they can decipher what kind of a plane it is.
"The Helldiver is so unique that it's kind of cool that they found it," said Kevin Knebel, who has been studying military aircrafts for much of his life.
He and others at the Warbird Information Exchange believe the airplane is a Curtiss SB2C Helldiver.
"It's pretty much intact," said Knebel. "The only thing that's missing is the fabric cover surfaces, which would be expected and the bomb bay doors are missing."
Knebel said the Helldiver is an aircraft carrier-based airplane with very distinct configurations. Because much of the plane is intact, it helps with identification and also to tell the story of what may have happened before the plane ended up in the water decades ago. The pilot's identity and fate are still unknown.
"If they had hit the water that hard, the aircraft wouldn't be in once piece," said Knebel. "It would be destroyed. So, my opinion is, they probably slid their canopies open and made preparations and made a controlled ditch landing. There's probably a lot more out there that we don't know about, but it's really cool, especially that it's such a rare airplane to find," he said.
The scuba divers are believed to be the first people to ever come across the wreckage. The group is planning to help assist the military, if prompted, to guide officials to the area. It is unclear what steps, if any, the military will take.