Two occupants of an ultralight aircraft that crashed into a Florida Everglades canal early Saturday were pulled from the water by Good Samaritans who worried alligators would get to them first.
Jesse Kennon and Reynaldo Ordaz, tour guides at Original Coopertown Airboat, sprang into action when they saw the crash happen shortly before 10:30 a.m. near the airboat business at 22700 SW 8th St.
The aircraft’s riders, a man and woman, had been trying to land on a levee near the airboat business, when things went horribly wrong.
“We were watching him start to land,” Kennon said of the pilot. “He was almost on the ground. A gust of wind caught him and moved him sideways. And when it did, it put him in the canal system.”
When Ordaz and Kennon ran toward the canal, they saw the crash victims surfaced from the water, Kennon said. The woman freed herself, but the man still was buckled into the aircraft, Ordaz said.
“They were strapped down to that flying thing, so I jumped in the water as soon as I could,” Ordaz said.
Ordaz helped “because I know what’s in there: Gators,” he said.
“I helped them kind of get unstuck, and I helped them to the shore,” he said.
The aircraft occupants looked “shocked,” he said.
The man, who had a gash on his hand, "was pretty banged up,” Ordaz said. He was taken by helicopter to Kendall Regional Medical Center, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. The woman didn't need to be taken to a hospital.
By 1 p.m., a tow truck arrived to pull the tiny red, black and white aircraft from the water.
Visitors at the airboat business, which also has a restaurant and gift shop, said they, too, saw the crash.
“We saw the ultralight coming down fast,” said Tom Petrak, one witness. “It looked like he was going to hit the power lines and it just dived, crashed on the ground and then fell right into the water.”
Ordaz and Kennon both said they were glad that they were there to help.
“It’s what you got to do when you see somebody in trouble. And if you can help them, go for it,” Ordaz said.
Kennon said: “We’re here all the time, so you just think about trying to get the people out of the water. That’s all. That’s the only thought you’ve got in your mind, to get them out and make sure they’re not hurt.”
The crash remains under investigation.