Gary Scheuran and his wife saw what looked like a small plane with problems as they prepared to board the ferry to Cumberland Island National Seashore on Friday morning.
The plane drew the attention of the couple and others boarding the ferry because it was flying erratically and appeared to be doing aerial maneuvers.
“We couldn’t tell if it was in distress,” he said. “It nose dived.”
The plane plunged into the St. Marys River nose first.
Scheuran said his wife could see a wing sticking out of the water for a few seconds after it crashed and before it sunk below the surface.
Another ferry passenger said a helicopter with pontoons flew over Cumberland Island on its way to the crash site on the Florida side of the St. Marys River.
Authorities later confirmed two persons were on board the plane. Their identities were being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
Initial response to the crash was by Camden Fire Rescue, St. Marys Police Department and Camden County Search and Rescue.
They were later joined by the Nassau County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office and Florida Highway Patrol after it was determined the crash occurred across the Georgia state line.
The command center for the crash response remained at the boat ramp next to Howard Gilman Memorial Park in downtown St. Marys.
The Florida Highway Patrol has taken over the investigation with the assistance of Camden County public safety officials.
The FHP will release more information as the investigation progresses.