Coast Guard responds to 2nd downed Key West airplane, assists survivor

KEY WEST, Fla. — The Coast Guard responded to a downed airplane about 40 miles north of Key West Saturday night.

This is Coast Guard Sector Key West’s second downed aircraft response in two days. The first response was Friday night in the vicinity of Cow Key Channel.

The Coast Guard was notified of the second downed aircraft after 9 p.m. Saturday. The downed aircraft, a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, was en route to Key West from Bartow, Fla.

Immediately upon notification, the Coast Guard launched an Air Station Miami MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew, an Air Station Miami HU-25 Falcon jet crew, a Coast Guard Station Key West 45-foot Response Boat-Medium crew, and issued an Urgent Marine Information Broadcast (UMIB).

The crew of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) ship Thomas Jefferson heard the issued UMIB, ceased its surveying duties approximately 30 miles from the downed aircraft, and made way toward the search area to assist. Shortly after 1 a.m. Sunday, lookouts on Thomas Jefferson located the pilot–the only passenger aboard the downed aircraft.

“Thomas Jefferson’s crew found the pilot swimming alone, having drifted about two miles from the reported crash site,” said NOAA Cmdr. Shepard M. Smith, the commanding officer of the Thomas Jefferson. “We initially heard his voice calling for help, and then saw him in our searchlights waving the white checkoff list he had found after the crash. We are very pleased to have been able to help avert a real tragedy.”

The Thomas Jefferson crew recovered the pilot, rendered medical assistance, and transferred the pilot to the Station Key West 45-foot Response Boat-Medium for transport to EMS personnel waiting ashore.

“We applaud the initiative taken by the Thomas Jefferson crew and appreciate their expertise and professionalism demonstrated on scene,” said Capt. Pat DeQuattro, commander, Coast Guard Sector Key West.

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