On the frightful night of June 28th, 1980 friends Jose Maldonado Torres and Jose Pagan Santos were in route to Puerto Rico, having just left the Dominican Republic. Within minutes they were high above the dark Caribbean waters. Torres was piloting the small Ercoupe that belonged to Santos’ father. Both men were familiar with the small aircraft, having flown the aircraft several times before. However this trip, this very same route that they had traveled through before, would ultimately lead the small Ercoupe numbered N3808H into oblivion.
Two hours after taking off from the Santo Domingo Airport, the aircraft issued its first distress call. At 8:03 P.M. the frantic chatter of both men was picked up by a few stations and aircraft that were listening. The strange cries of Mayday! echoed from the listener’s radio.
“Mayday, Mayday, Ercoupe ocho cero, eight zero, zero, Hotel. We can see a strange object in our course, we are lost, Mayday, Mayday.”
Across the night sky, an Iberia Airlines flight IB-976 in route to Spain issued a reply to the distress call. The pilots of the Iberia airplane waited silently for a response. Suddenly the crackling of the radio transmission broke sharply through the cockpit.
“Ah we are going from Santo Domingo to ah San Juan International but we found ah a weird object in our course that made us change course about three different times we got it right in front of us now at one o’clock, our heading is zero seven zero degrees…our altitude one thousand six hundred a zero seven zero degrees…our VORs got lost off frequency…”
Both Iberia pilots must have been baffled by what they’d just heard coming through the radio. “Weird object?” Did they hear that correctly? Their curiosity forced them to immediately issue another response. This time, the pilots asked the small Ercoupe to turn on their transponder. Again, they silently waited, glued to the speakers.
“Right now we are supposed to be a about thirty five miles from the coast of Puerto Rico but we have something weird in front of us that make us lose course all the time I changed our course a second (unintelligible) our present heading right now is three hundred we are right again in the same stuff sir.”
The crackling continued until the voices of the young men faded and trailed off, as if swallowed by the ominous static. That warm June night in 1980 would prove to be the last time anyone heard from Torres, Santos and the ill-fated aircraft numbered N3808H who had flown unknowingly into the vast and mysterious perimeters of the Bermuda Triangle.
The mysterious disappearance of Torres and Santos was documented and filed away as another “missing aircraft” report. Possibly raising a few eyebrows of those who realized that this strange disappearance happened in the domain of the Devil’s Triangle. Those who listened to the transcripts of that doomed flight were left wondering what was the weird object that the two friends encountered more than a thousand feet from the ocean waters.
The reports from the NTSB conclude that the last radar position of the aircraft put them thrity-five miles west of the island of Puerto Rico. After two days of Search and Rescue missions, which Santos’ father was a part of, the call was made to discontinue the efforts when no trace of the aircraft or men was found.
NTSB Identification: MIA80DA079
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