Two people miraculously escaped unharmed after their single-engine aircraft crashed into the ocean near Half Moon Bay off the California Coast.
David Lesh, the plane’s pilot and founder of outerwear company Virtika, told KRON4 the 1979 Beechcraft A36 Bonanza he purchased just weeks prior lost power before it went down, bouncing off the ocean before coming to a stop.
(Below isn’t the exact plane Lesh and a friend were flying, but it’s the identical make and model.)
Lesh said that he had a total of 30 nerve-wrecking seconds to deal with the power problem as he prepared for a water landing.
“We skipped along the water for a few hundred feet and the impact was very minimal, it was not hard at all and we immediately opened the door and got out onto the wing,” Lesh said.
He said he only had 20 or 30 seconds before the plane sunk, so he took a quick inventory and grabbed his cell phone and the keys to his car. Once in the water, he called to his friend and fellow pilot, Owen Leipelt, was inside a second plane flying overhead and had captured footage of their crash landing.
Leipelt said for the first 15 minutes after the crash, he did not know what his friend’s condition was.
“When he called me, it was a relief,” Leipelt said.
“It’s absolutely surreal hearing your friend call for mayday and ask for help. It’s something you never want to hear,” Leipelt said. “I watched them go down, so I’m still trying to process.”
While Leipelt made a call to the Coast Guard, Lesh was able to snap an amazing video from his phone of the tip of the plane sticking straight upward, looking like a whale’s tale.
After some time in the water, the icy temperatures and treading water began waning on Lesh and his passenger. Jelly fish began to sting his legs.
“It got cold pretty quickly,” Lesh said. “After about twenty minutes or so, I started to freeze up pretty good.”
Coast Guardsman Michael Sullivan, who was dropped from a helicopter, helped rescue Lesh after the plane went down. It sounds like he made it just in time.
“…by the time [we] got to David, he was probably, pretty decently, hypothermic, moving into severely hypothermic,” Sullivan said.
Here is a video of Sully coming to the rescue.
You will never find me on one of those little mini planes for as long as I shall live.