LOS ANGELES (AP) — The pilot of a small airplane that experienced engine failure and went down Saturday off the Southern California coast near Catalina Island said it never occurred to him that he wouldn’t survive the crash.
“I was pretty calm. You look at the situation and you realize this is what we have to deal with. I had a pretty good idea what I needed to do,” said David Prizio, 62, of Tustin.
Prizio told The Associated Press that he and his lone passenger were cruising at 6,500 feet on their way to lunch on Catalina when the plane’s engine suddenly died.
“I did some pretty quick math and realized I wasn’t going to make it to the airport,” said Prizio, a retired contractor and a pilot for some 40 years.
Prizio said he decided to try and put the single-engine Texas Sport Cub down near a cluster of pleasure boats about six miles northeast of Catalina.
“I wanted to land in front of them, hoping they would spot us,” he said.
The impact shattered the windshield and the rush of water knocked off his glasses. He broke a finger but was otherwise unhurt. His passenger escaped injury.
“We were lucky that the sea was smooth and the plane didn’t flip over,” Prizio said.
U.S. Coast Guard and lifeguard boats and helicopters were quickly sent to the scene, but a recreational boat reached the pair first.
Drew Naffziger was on his way to Catalina Island with his brother and wife when he spotted the low-flying plane.
“I told my brother ‘Hey this plane is pretty low and I don’t hear an engine either,’” Naffziger told the Los Angeles Times. “I think it’s going to crash.”
The plane went into the water about 100 yards from his boat. The plane’s wheels hit first, then its nose dipped in, sending its tail straight up in the air before slamming back down, he told the newspaper.
The two men spent only minutes in the water. Naffziger threw them a life preserver and pulled them onto the boat. Naffizger’s wife, a nurse, grabbed blankets to keep the two men warm, he said.
A lifeguard craft from the city of Avalon met up with the boat and took the two men aboard.
U.S. Coast Guard Coast Guard spokesman Adam Eggers said the plane sank, leaving a small field of debris on the surface.
The Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board were investigating, said FAA spokesman Allen Kenitzer.
Prizio said he would probably get another plane.
“I was pretty rattled, but not so rattled that I won’t fly again,” he said