KENT ISLAND, Md. (FOX 5 DC) - The wreckage of a helicopter that crashed into the Chesapeake Bay near Kent Island Saturday was pulled from the water on Monday. Charles Knight and Matt Clarke, both 36, died when their rented helicopter went down.
Investigators say there were several boaters who were out on the water and witnessed the helicopter go down and called for help, which included one of the victim's brothers.
"We did know Chuck personally. We worked with him very closely and it's a tragedy and there's a lot of emotion," said Seth Clute.
Seth Clute is the director of operations at Monumental Helicopters in Fort Meade, but he was also a friend of Pilot Charles "Chuck" Knight, who was flying the rented yellow Cabri G-2 helicopter Saturday along with his passenger, Matt Clarke, when it went down in the Chesapeake Bay.
Knight and Clarke took off that morning from Tipton Airport but less than 30 minutes later crashed into the water just off Bloody Point at the southernmost tip of Kent Island. Their bodies were recovered later that evening and witnesses report seeing the helicopter flying unusually low.
Clute says Knight was familiar with flying the sporty two-seat helicopter built in 2017 and it recently had its annual inspection in April.
"Mr. Knight is a graduate of our training program and qualified as a private pilot on this specific aircraft about a year ago. He's flown it frequently over the past year and sometimes several times a month," said Clute.
Meanwhile, family describes Clarke as a loving husband and father and Knight leaves behind a wife and daughter, and another one on the way.
"It is something we are going to be asking questions about and struggling with for quite a while," said Clute.
Crews spent most of Monday recovering what was left of the aircraft from the bay as the cause of the crash remains unclear.
NTSB and FAA will look at the wreckage, but results of the investigation could take months, maybe longer.
Right now, it's unclear if the pilot was ever able to call for help before the helicopter went down.
Below is a statement from Charles Knight's family:
"Charles Jr Knight II aka Chuck Knight was a loving husband, father, son and brother. Chuck, a devoted Christian with a strong faith in God and had a family first attitude.
Chuck was known by family, friends and members of the community as one to always help others, even before himself. He held the highest integrity, morales and values close to his heart... always to do the right thing. His passion for flying helicopters and loved showing others what he loved and flying around his home in Anne Arundel County. He was very careful, and would plan his flight hours in advance, including checking the weather in days of preparation. He was always safety first. I still remember my first flight with Chuck and how he just lit up with excitement and going over all the safety checks at least two or three times.
He was an Eagle Scout and graduated from Meade Sr. High School. He owned Welsh's Trailer Court and was President, CEO of Knight's Contracting Inc. both in Laurel, Maryland.
His surviving family include his wife Joanna Knight, daughter Ariana Knight and another daughter on the way. Mother is Linda Knight and sister Missie Knight-Beck.
We miss him terribly and can't believe this has happened to someone we love so much. Chuck is one we could only strive to be and have in their lives. He is a one of a kind and we miss him very much. No words can describe the loss we have."
Below are statements from Matt Clarke's wife, his sister, Niki, and his parents:
"My husband, my best friend, my leader, partner, helper, and cheerleader was the most selfless man I have ever met. The first person to drop everything and show up to help anyone in need, Matt taught every person he interacted with about Christ-like, selfless service and love. We married at just 20 years old and made the conscious choice every single day to prioritize Christ in our marriage. For that reason, I never questioned whether any decision Matt made was in the best interest of our family. I trusted and respected his leadership unconditionally and he returned that trust and respect. Matt worked hard to try to right any wrong he perceived in any of his relationships with friends and family, and to make sure that those around him knew that they were loved by him and by God. He knew that what he wanted to leave when he left this earth was a legacy of integrity, kindness, and showing others Jesus's love. Matt was a true renaissance man - a hunter, a fisherman and boater, the tech and gadget guy, a trusted financial advisor, wise decision-maker, and devoted family man. Above all of these titles, however, he is, and forever will be, a child of Christ. Any time Matt and I came across a situation where we cried together, our question to each other was "how can God use us in this chapter and season"? I know that Matt would be telling me to ask myself how God can use me today. So the unimaginably difficult message that I pray people can receive from this tragic accident is that you should be prepared to meet your maker at any point. I have hope and peace that I will see my very best friend again one day. Jesus is that hope and that's something I know Matthew would want everyone witnessing this event to know and understand." - Matt Clarke's wife.
"Matthew Clarke the most wonderful brother, friend, Role model, husband, father, My moral compass when I needed advice, and most of all an example in the way that he lived his every day life to help others and to glorify the one that made us all. I do not have the words To describe how much in his 36 years on earth he has done for every person that he is touched and what he did for everybody else will still live on and show and the people that loved him the most. Matt I love you, You will be missed and you will be with me every day." - Matt Clarke's sister Niki.
"His name means "Gift of God'--and that truly is what he has been to us from the moment he entered our lives. Always a curious, thoughtful, adventurous boy who became a renaissance man. Matt was not only interested in everything common but thought outside the box and tried so many new things. Always ready for some adventure, including a helicopter ride to take photos from an aerial perspective. But he is most known as a man wiser than his years and was able to see people's needs and find ways to meet them. He is known as a wonderful family man who dearly cherished his wife and kids. First a son but the relationship developed into a deep friendship as the training years of parenting came to an end. He was our next door neighbor as well so we often could look out the window and see the boy/man we were privileged to have as a son. To say that he will be sorely missed does not come close to our deep feelings of loss. But what we take comfort in is the fact that he was a Jesus Follower and because of that decision went from this life into the arms of the One that died for him and that same God will sustain us until we are reunited with our son. Matt--we love you…." - Matt Clarke's parents.