Missing Navy A-6 Intruder found after crashing in
update January 24, 2017
After 18 intense months, the search for the lost Intruder is over. On October 16th and 17th, 2015, Maritime Documentation
Society (MDS) technical divers positively identified the missing Navy attack jet. Peter Hunt located the site after meticulously
researching the incident and narrowing down the probable water impact zone to one-half a square mile. He then searched
the area with a recreational, Dragonfly sonar/depth sounder for twenty hours before finding the contact. It is located in
Rosario Strait off of Whidbey Island, Washington.
The wreckage is strewn over several hundred
feet, but the center of the debris field is concentrated sufficiently to indicate that the jet was relatively intact when
it sank. Since then, salt water has caused the fuselage to fall apart.
Peter Hunt flew this exact A-6 Intruder, bureau number 159572, both from Naval
Air Station Whidbey Island and the U.S.S. Ranger during his time in the active duty Navy. The Intruder's crew ejected safely
on November 6, 1989, after experiencing a total hydraulic failure. The Navy mounted a search effort to find and salvage the
jet to determine the exact cause of the hydraulic failure that caused the $30 million dollar jet (in 1989 dollars) to crash.
After spending two full months searching thirty square miles with four ships, the Navy gave up. Peter Hunt and Ben
Griner spent the spring and summer of 2014 utilizing side-scan sonar to find the missing jet but were also unsuccessful.
Ten total contact identification
dives were made before the lost Intruder was finally found. Hunt participated on three of the dives but had to bow
out of those beyond 150 feet due to Parkinson's disease. One year ago, Hunt underwent Deep Brain Stimulation surgery. Although the
procedure was successful in that it lessened the effects of the worst of the Parkinson's symptoms, the surgery limits
him to a theoretical 33-foot deep diving maximum.
Maritime Documentation Society divers Rob
Wilson, Paul Hangartner, and Dan Warter staged their underwater work from Peter Hunt's boat, the Sea Hunt.
Three dives have been made to the site so far. The A-6 is in over 200-feet of water in an area of high current (up to four
knots) and severely limited visibility. On the last dive to the site, one diver experienced an unearned decompression sickness
hit, forcing a helicopter evacuation to Virginia Mason in Seattle. After four treatments in the recompression chamber, the
diver has recovered completely.
A-6 159572 is one of two unrecovered Intruders in Puget Sound; the second reportedly crashed short of the airfield
in Dugualla Bay on the east side of Whidbey Island in 1967. Dugualla Bay is shallow with extensive mud flats.
Peter Hunt is putting the finishing
touches on a book about the remarkable search and discovery and how the project helped him navigate some of Parkinson's
January 24, 2017 Sea Hunt returned technical
divers to the lost Intruder for further exploration. During a 30 minute bottom time dive to 209 feet (106 minutes total
run time), Rob Wilson, Paul Hangartner, and John Sanders were able to map out more of the lost Intruder's wreckage, including
the tail section and port horizontal stabilizer. The downline was dropped directly over the main debris field, where both
engines, one main landing gear, the nose landing gear, and what is probably the cockpit are located. As more is discovered,
it appears that the A-6 probably broke up on impact to a greater degree than previously thought.