2 dead after vintage P-51 Mustang plane crashes near Chocolate Bay

BRAZORIA COUNTY, Texas - Authorities say a pilot and one passenger were killed when a vintage P-51 Mustang plane, called the Galveston Gal, crashed in a lake near Chocolate Bay.

Officials responded to the area after a plane was reported down around noon Wednesday.

A charter fisherman reported seeing an older plane go down, according to the Brazoria County Sheriff's Office.

FAA spokesperson Lynn Lunsford said the plane was a vintage P-51 Mustang that took off from Galveston.

We've learned the vintage plane was called the Galveston Gal. Lunsford said the aircraft was operated by the Lone Star Flight Museum.

A Coast Guard helicopter from Houston and a boat from their station in Freeport recovered the plane and two bodies while searching the area near the southeast corner of Hall Lake.

The FAA said one pilot and one passenger were on board at the time of the crash. We're told the passenger was a customer who paid to ride in the plane.

Wreckage from the crash was found about 13 miles southwest of the Galveston airport in Galveston Bay.

Lunsford said the pilot was not in contact with air traffic control at the time of the crash.

The victims have been identified as pilot Keith Hibbett, of Denton, and passenger John Busby, of England. We're told Busby, 66, and his wife were vacationing in Houston, celebrating their 41st wedding anniversary.

"Our prayers are obviously with the family of the pilot and passenger," said Larry Gregory, president of the Lone Star Flight Museum. "We're just really saddened by today's events.  We lost two great people."

The Department of Public Safety says Hibbett, 51, is very experienced and, at this time, investigators believe it must have been a mechanical issue.

Gregory said the plane had just gotten back from an air show in Fort Worth last weekend and there were no known problems with the aircraft.

The museum has suspended flight operations until further notice.

The National Transportation Safety Board will be in charge of the investigation, according to the FAA.

Wings Over Houston said the Galveston Gal was one of 80 vintage aircraft scheduled to appear in the air show this coming weekend. WOH said the show and the plane rides purchased by patrons will go on as scheduled.

WOH released a statement which reads in part, "So while our hearts ache and we grieve, we will continue to share our love of aviation with our fans and move forward with our show. And we will remember these two people, their families, and their friends in our thoughts and prayers now, during our show and in the difficult days ahead."

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