updated 5/24/2007 12:13:51 AM ET 2007-05-24T04:13:51

A small World War II-era biplane crashed into a sand bar in Charleston Harbor on Wednesday, killing both people aboard, authorities said.

The plane went down about 150 yards from shore shortly before 7 p.m. and not far from Patriots Point, where a black-tie gala was being held to honor recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard didn’t receive any calls about the plane until it crashed, spokesman Sean Shrum said.

The wreckage was found about two miles southeast of Patriots Point, but the occupants appeared to have been killed on impact, Shrum said.

The plane took off from Charleston Executive Airport across the harbor on Johns Island around 6:30 p.m. for a leisure trip, said Anthony Abbatiello, manager of Mercury Air Center, which oversees the airport.

The biplane was made in 1942 and has an open cockpit with two seats, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

People living nearby said the plane banked to the right before it turned upside down and crashed, The Post and Courier of Charleston reported on its Web site.

The Coast Guard didn’t immediately know whether the plane had anything to do with the event, which comes just days before the Medal of Honor Museum is set to open. The museum, aboard the USS Yorktown on Charleston Harbor, is a tribute to the 3,444 recipients of the nation’s highest military honor.

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