Investigators probe Osteen wreckage possibly linked to missing WWII planes

Wreckage may belong to plane that vanished after takeoff from DeLand Naval Air Station


OSTEEN, Fla. – Investigators with the U.S. Navy arrived in Volusia County Wednesday to determine whether plane wreckage found in an empty lot is connected to the DeLand Naval Air Station.

Rodney Thomas started finding pieces of the plane about three years ago when he started using a metal detector in the area next to his home.

So far, he's found more than 300 pieces.

"I thought it was a plane crash that I had already been cleaned up," he said.

It turns out the wreckage may belong to one of six SBD-5 planes that vanished soon after takeoff from the DeLand Naval Air Station between 1943 and 1944 -- during World War II.

"This happens from time to time -- that they're found on private property," said George Schwarz, a Navy archaeologist who arrived from Washington to investigate the wreckage.

Cadaver dogs were brought in on Wednesday to search the area for signs of the pilot's remains, while Schwarz's team searched for more pieces of wreckage.

"We're hoping to find some information about the aircraft that will tie back to some of the records that we have to help us confirm it," he said.

Investigators will be at the site through Friday with the hopes of determining if this plane was one of the six that vanished.

They're hoping to solve at least one of the cases, and possibly bring closure to the family of the pilot who has been missing all of these years.

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