Former US Navy captain and son rescued pilot from icy creek after crash, hailed as heroes
A retired U.S. Navy captain and his son, a U.S. Marine, didn't hesitate when hopping into kayaks and maneuvering across a frozen creek to save the life of a pilot who crashed into the ice a day after Christmas.
"It’s kind of a blessing on Christmas to be able to help someone like that," retired U.S. Navy captain John Gelinne told NBC News correspondent Stephanie Gosk on TODAY Dec 27, saying that he did think the situation "could have ended badly."
Gelinne described how he and his son saw a plane seemingly coming straight for his family's home in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, before it banked left and crashed into nearby Beards Creek on the morning of Dec. 26.
A press release from the Maryland State Police reported witnesses saying they heard the engine sputter after taking off from nearby Lee Airport in Edgewater, Maryland.
A doorbell camera video captured the pilot, identified by police as Steve Couchman, 71, screaming for help after the crash. The Gelinnes called 911 and then jumped into action.
"We knew he was in trouble, and so we ran out to the patio and we saw the plane go down and ditch into the creek," Gelinne told Gosk.
The creek was frozen over and water temperatures were in the low 40s, according to Gelinne.
"I knew that there was a man overboard portside," Gelinne recalled. "What do we need to do to get this individual out of the water as quickly as possible?"
The family keeps two kayaks beneath the patio of their main deck, and Gelinne attributed their impulse to help to their military background.
"We just kind of went into action," Gelinne said.
They used the kayaks because they anticipated that the ice would break if they tried to walk on it. The duo used shovels instead of paddles to propel the kayaks across the thin ice.
Couchman was standing on the wing of the sinking plane when the Gelinnes were able to reach him, according to the press release.
"I asked him to release from the plane, the tail, that’s all that was left for him to grab to, and got it and yanked him onto the kayak," Gelinne said.
Emergency teams then arrived with boats and brought the pilot to shore. Couchman is in the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, according to police.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com