Father and son kayakers rescue pilot who crashed in icy creek
When John Gelinne Sr. and his son saw a small plane crash into an ice-covered creek near their Maryland home on Monday morning, they immediately sprang into action.
The two servicemen grabbed their kayaks and headed for the downed plane, which had landed at Beards Creek in Edgewater, not far from Lee Airport. They used shovels to propel themselves across the frozen creek, as their paddles were rendered useless by the frozen water.
As the single-engine Piper Cherokee sank, the pilot was able to climb out and stood on the wing while waiting for help, Maryland State Police said.
When father and son reached the pilot, he was standing waist-deep in the freezing water.
Gelinne Sr. said he told the pilot, “‘Get out of the water, get out of the water and hold on tight. “”
“I just ducked back and got my kayak out of the ice and it was out of the water,” Gelinne Sr., a retired naval officer, told Baltimore ABC affiliate WMAR.
Anne Arundel County Police Officer Elizabeth Myers also responded by kayak, using a screwdriver to plow through the ice. Body camera footage shows her reaching the scene of the crash as the 71-year-old pilot, who was the sole occupant of the plane, clings to Gelinne Sr’s kayak.
A police vessel from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources then arrived on the scene and took the pilot to a waiting ambulance, police said. He was taken to a local hospital and treated for non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said.
The cause of the crash is under investigation, although the preliminary investigation indicates that the plane’s engine began to sputter “moments after the pilot took off from Lee Airport”, state police said.
“Witnesses told police they heard the sputtering and shortly after heard the plane crash into Beards Creek,” state police said in a statement.
The Gelinnes thought the plane was going to hit their house – until it landed in the creek.
“He recognized he was in trouble and he fired him on the left,” Gelinne Sr. told WMAR.
Both father and son suspect that the pilot saved lives with this maneuver.
“He probably saved himself and a few houses around him too,” John Gelinne Jr. told WMAR.
The kayakers were not injured during the rescue operation. Gelinne Jr., a United States Marine, was impressed by his father’s actions.
“I’m in pain, so I’m sure he is too,” Gelinne Jr. told WMAR.
First responders praised the Gelinnes for their quick thinking and potentially life-saving actions by quickly getting to the pilot and pulling him partially out of the freezing water. Anne Arundel County Fire Department Lt. Jennifer Macallair called their efforts “heroic.”
Although Gelinne Sr. told WMAR he doesn’t see it that way.
“I look at him as someone who saw something that had to do something,” he said.