Byline: Taylor Hill
SAN DIEGO — Two recreational boaters on San Diego Bay acted quickly and effectively May 26, speeding to the scene of a downed plane to help rescue the two pilots on board.
The plane, a Cessna 150, had been pulling a banner advertisement behind it when the engine reportedly cut out, leaving the pilots with no power and no safe place to land.
After some quick thinking, the pilots released the banner, before dropping into the water off San Diego Bay’s Fifth Street Landing Marina, just short of the nearby Hilton Bayfront Hotel.
Nearby at Marriott Marina, liveaboard Michael Novick had spotted the plane descending and quickly went into action.
“I was in a ski boat, and one of those banner planes went by. All of a sudden, I heard a sort of ‘pop’ noise, and then it went silent,” Novick said. “I saw the prop wasn’t turning and I thought, ‘uh-oh, this isn’t good.’”
Novick sped around Embarcadero South and headed straight for the crash site, where, upon his arrival, the plane was almost already completely submerged.
“As we came around the entrance to Fifth Avenue Landing, we were wondering where the plane went, and then we saw just the tailfin and part of wing. It was quickly sinking,” Novick said.
Novick and his girlfriend were able to locate the copilot of the plane and get him safely on board, as another boat came behind and rescued the other pilot from the water. Both had escaped the cockpit prior to the plane being submerged.
Minutes later, a Coast Guard vessel arrived on the scene, and both pilots were placed aboard and transported to shore. “
“Thanks to the quick actions of boaters who were in the area, the two men were only in the water for minutes after making the emergency landing,” said San Diego Coast Guard public affairs officer Michael Haas. “Boaters took exactly the right actions, calling in the distress on (VHF radio) Channel 16 and assisting the people in the water.”
The pilots were uninjured during the crash. The reason for the plane’s engine failure had not been determined at press time.
“Kudos to the pilots, though,” Novick said. “They could have landed on people, nearby boats, or in the park, but they found a free spot in the water — and, thankfully, they’re OK.”