Caught on Camera: Denver man films his own plane crash rescue in California

HALF MOON BAY, Calif.– San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department says emergency crews responded to the scene of a single-engine plane crash roughly nine miles south and five miles west of the harbor in Half Moon Bay. Two people who were spotted in the water have been rescued, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The sheriff’s department said the two people rescued were taken to a local hospital as a precaution, but had earlier declined medical attention, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

The Coast Guard said two planes were flying together when the BE-36 crashed. The second plane was able to radio the incident to air traffic control, who then notified the Coast Guard. When the Coast Guard located the two people in the water, they were hoisted up to a helicopter. They were flown to SFO Airport, before being taken to a hospital sheriff’s spokesperson Detective Rosemerry Blankswade said.

KTVU spoke with the Coast Guard rescue team, consisting of four members, who happened to be in the air for a rescue training mission when they received the call about the real-deal emergency.

The plane sank, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. It was registered to Lesh Air with an address in Denver, Colorado.

KTVU’s Jana Katsuyama spoke with David Lesh, the pilot of the downed plane, who said he was flying his aircraft with a friend. They were flying next to another friend and his brother and were taking photos of each other in the air when suddenly the plane lost power and landed in the Ocean.

“We just stood on the wing as long as we could. The airplane started sinking. There was jellyfish everywhere. There was sunfish. There was whales breaching around us. We just waited as long as we could on the wing. The plane went down, we got into the water. Jellyfish were stinging us the entire time we were in there.”

Lesh said he and his female friend had about 30 seconds to get flotation devices and his cell phone and keys before the plane completely sank into the ocean. For the next 30 to 40 minutes they floated in the Pacific.

At one point his friend was flying above them and called for help. The Coast Guard crew immediately headed their way, but the water was cold. At one point, the friend said he lost sight of Lesh and their other friend in the water.

He described the horrible feeling.

“I had been circling him the whole time, from the time it impacted water. For about 10 minutes I couldn’t see him,” said Owen Leipelt of South San Jose.

“Luckily everything worked out well tonight and we were able to get to them within 25 minutes before any actual damage happened to them,” said U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer Mikol Sullivan.

The Coast Guard was able to rescue the crash victims by pulling them up in a basket.

“We’re just really happy it was a happy ending and these two people are able to walk home alive tonight,” Lt. Catherine Schmitz said.

Lesh said he flew his Beechcraft plane to the Bay Area from Denver.

“Experienced an engine failure off the coast of San Francisco today during a photo formation flight, had to ditch into the ocean. Bobbed around getting hypothermia and stung by jelly fish for 45min” shared Lesh on Instagram.

The Harbor Patrol and Cal Fire also responded to the scene  It is not clear what led up to the plane crash. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate the cause.

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