A single-engine Cessna plane was forced to crash land on water leaving a 77 year old man and his adult son stranded. With little time to respond, the U.S. Coast Guard pulled of a dramatic rescue minutes before the plane went under.
Chris Courtney, a 14 year veteran of piloting rescue missions claimed he had only ever responded to one other downed aircraft call in his career and that one did not end well. It was the third mission Courtney had flown that day. He and the rest of his rescue team had little time to plan how they were going to achieve the rescue. They had a 45 minute flight to reach the plane’s location which was roughly 30 miles away from Big Sur.
When they arrived, father and son were atop the plane. The team hoisted the father before rescuing the son. According to Courtney, as they lifted the son off of the aircraft, it rolled to its left and submerged. Had they been even a couple of minutes later in arriving, the outcome of this mission might have been very different. It’s conceivable that the two men could have died out there.
Courtney said they literally had less than three minutes to rescue the two men. He knew adrenaline was pumping through his and his team’s veins this time out.
The rescue was successful in part because the father and son had gone to the trouble of installing a 406 Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB), a GPS locating device on the aircraft. It allows the pilot to send a signal to a satellite used to coordinate rescue attempts. The signal contains information about the beacon’s owner, a phone number to call and data about the aircraft. Without that information, the Coast Guard may not have been able to locate the pair as quickly as they did. Courtney says it your best chance to survive if you are ever on a vessel that is in distress.