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Into the Deep Blue Yonder: Fighter pilot to visit undersea wreckage of jet he ejected from in '74
The wreckage of a Vought A-7 Corsair II has sat 80 feet under the sea off the coast of St. Augustine, Fla., since 1974, when Navy fighter pilot Bob Besal ejected just before it crashed. Recently, a Marine conservation company that builds artificial reefs located it and asked Besal to dive the wreck. Click for photos of the wreckage, and the pilot's story.

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Navy fighter pilot Bob Besal was flying his plane at 15,000 feet in a formation drill when he struck his commanding officer's plane. "My tail hit the front of his fuselage," Besal told FoxNews.com. "The tail just snapped off." (Photo by Bob Besal. Click here for more.)

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Besal ejected, and the plane went down some 20 miles off the coast of Florida. Conservation group Think It, Sink It, Reef It (TISIRI) found the crash site 38 years later after talking to local fishermen. Click for more.

TISIRI/Joe Kistel

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The plane was identified when TISIRI diver Joe Kistel found this aircraft data plate during one of several early dives. Click for more.

TISIRI/Joe Kestel

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Cmdr. Peter Schoeffel was able to get his damaged plane back to Cecil Field Naval Air Station after the collision. Besal ejected and floated in the ocean for a half-hour as he awaited rescue. Click for more.

TISIRI/Joe Kistel

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The group tracked down Besal at his home in Charleston, S.C. He recalled becoming disoriented during a dive bombing practice formation, clipping the fuselage of the lead plane and spinning out of control. Click for more.

TISIRI/Joe Kistel

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"I was bobbing up and down in the ocean on a raft. I wondered what happened to my skipper," Besal recalled. Pictured is a turbine from the fighter plane. Click for more.

TISIRI/Joe Kistel

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Besal was picked up by a helicopter that was involved in an unrelated drill. "I turned to the crew and asked, 'What happened to the other pilot?'" They said, 'What other pilot?' I really thought that I'd knocked his plane out of the sky." Click for more.

TISIRI/Larry Davis

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When Besal got a call from TISIRI, he was stunned. "That's probably the last thing on Earth that I expected." Pictured is part of a turbine blade. Click for more.

TISIRI/Joe Kistel

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Besal still remembers the emotions he went through that day. "I really thought I knocked his plane out of the sky," Besel said. "I went through a roller-coaster spiral of emotions, from thinking that I killed my commanding officer to thanking God he was alive." Click for more.

TISIRI/Larry Davis

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Kistel has invited Besal to come back to Florida to accompany him on another dive or fishing trip near the wreckage next month. "I think it would be great if we took him fishing off the reef, just so there's a happy ending," said Kistel. Click for more.

TISIRI/Larry Davis

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Fishing might be a possibility, but donning scuba gear is a longshot, said Besal. "I'm not a diver," he said. "I wish I was." Click for more.

TISIRI/Larry Davis

Into the Deep Blue Yonder: Fighter pilot to visit undersea wreckage of jet he ejected from in '74

The wreckage of a Vought A-7 Corsair II has sat 80 feet under the sea off the coast of St. Augustine, Fla., since 1974, when Navy fighter pilot Bob Besal ejected just before it crashed. Recently, a Marine conservation company that builds artificial reefs located it and asked Besal to dive the wreck. Click for photos of the wreckage, and the pilot's story.

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