The US Coast Guard rescued a 77-year-old man and his son from a stalled plane off the coast of California on Sunday.
NBC News reports that the single-engine Cessna plane stalled and was forced to crash land into the ocean.
US Coast Guard Chris Courtney and his three man team explained to NBC Bay Area that the difference between life and death for the two men was just a matter of minutes.
Upon arrival to the scene, Courtney’s crew lifted the father up out of the water and then went back for the son.
“Just as we pulled him off the aircraft, it rolled over to the left and sank,” Courtney said. “If we’d been there any later, it’s very possible that those two would have died last night,” Courtney said.
This was not the first time that Courtney had been sent to a downed aircraft. He had been sent to one other down-aircraft situation, but that one did not end so well.
Sunday’s father and son rescue mission was Courtney’s third mission of the day. This left the team little time to come up with a rescue plan and fly 45 minutes south to the planes location, which was about 30 miles from Big Sur.
“We had literally less than three minutes to get this done,” he said, “and we were able to save those guys and get them back to airport — so your adrenaline’s definitely kicking in.”
Courtney said that the father and son helped the rescue go smoothly as well. They did this by equipping their plane with a GPS tool called a 406 Electronic Position Indicating Radio Beacon. This allowed them to send a help signal to a rescue coordination center via satellite, immediately transferring information about the beacon’s owner, the aircraft, and a phone number to call to confirm if the vessel is in distress.
“It saves so much time,” Courtney said. “It’s your best chance to surviving if you are on a vessel in distress.”