Helicopter Crashed Sunday in San Diego Bay

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Onlookers at the San Diego Bay received a nasty surprise this past Sunday evening when a helicopter crashed into the water near the San Diego-Coronado bridge at about 6:20 p.m. The pilot, 69-year old Howard Leight, had taken off from a luxury yacht docked behind the San Diego Convention Center when the engines began shutting down. After attempting a failed crash landing on the bridge, Leight opted to let the craft go down in the water.

Harbor Police officers Tim Wright and Rich Rodriquez happened to be on site making a routine patrol when they received a distress call from the downed aircraft. A minute later, the officers were on the scene, with Rodriguez disentangling Leight from the helicopter’s wiring and extracting him from the sinking machine. Wright, for his part, dove underwater to check for any additional people who may have been aboard the aircraft: “The fear is, with an aircraft or vessel, is whether it is going down,” he said in an interview with CBS 8. “We don’t want him to go down with it, or if there was anybody else inside, or also our own personnel.” Leight turned out to be the sole passenger aboard the craft, and the officers quickly brought him to shore, had him treated at a dock bordering the nearby Cesar Chavez Park, and then transported him to the UCSD Medical Center. He suffered a back injury as well as cuts and bruises, but the pilot simply seemed thankful to be alive, repeatedly telling the officers, “I love you guys.”

The cause of the crash is currently under investigation, but everyone involved is thrilled that the situation was resolved so well: “We were very fortunate we were in the area or it could have been catastrophic,” Wright said to the Union-Tribune. And what of the officers? “They did a great job,” Harbor Police Chief John Bolduc said. “They responded how they were trained.”

Photo from Port of San Diego via flickr

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