Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brian Gabbert used a jet ski to help rescue passengers on the helicopter after he fell into the water Thursday, he said at a news conference Friday.
While he and his two brothers, Taylor and Brett, were jet skiing in Hillsborough Bay, Florida, he said they heard a “faint sound.”
“We turned around … and I just remember looking west and seeing — it looked like a crew boat, broken into about four pieces in the water — and I vaguely remember seeing two yellow life jackets,” Garber said. Te said.
After arriving at the scene, Gabbert said he realized it was a helicopter in the water and expected the “worst-case scenario.”
Tampa police said the helicopter was on its way back to Peter O. Knight Airport when the pilot allegedly heard a loud bang and then lost power.
Police said the pilot made an emergency landing in the water near the Davis Islands Yacht Club about 300 feet from the airport beach, and all passengers fell into the water.
“It looked like they were in trouble. We ran up there and the youngest kid just came up and he said he was pinned down there, and I asked if anyone else was trapped,” Gabbert said, later recalling at a news conference. The whole family was visibly shaken, and their bodies were covered in oil stains from the forced landing.
“Then I called 911 and tried to stay calm … I came at the right time. This is really a credit to the Tampa Police Department, Fire Department and Sheriff’s Department because they were there in five seconds.
“It’s pretty amazing. I have two on my jet ski, my brothers have one, and the pilot is still in the water. That’s when you guys showed up.”
Video taken by the Tampa Police Department, which arrived shortly after Gabbert and his brothers, showed a motorboat circling the crash site and the helicopter pilot climbing aboard the police boat.
Gabbert and his brothers, who returned to the beach safely on their jet ski, were named honorary members of the Tampa Police Marine Patrol after taking part in Thursday’s rescue operation.